APR 28, 2023 6:00 AM PDT

Ridesharing Platforms, Not Taxi Services, Do Better in Emergency Situations

Ridesharing platforms have become an everyday aspect of our lives, but in an emergency, would it work better in an emergency versus a traditional taxi service? This is what a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Peking University hope to answer in a recent paper published in Information Systems Research as they examine the pros and cons of each service during an emergency, such as a subway closure or terrorist attack.

“Our study offers important insights into the design of platform strategies, especially for stimulating labor supply and providing incentives for urban transportation systems to adopt and use technology in response to urban emergencies,” said Dr. Beibei Li, who is an associate professor of information technology and management at CMU’s Heinz College, and a co-author on the study.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on ridesharing platforms and taxi services in New York City (NYC) between January 2015 and December 2017. The key component of the study was to examine how each performed during emergencies, including car crashes, terrorist attacks, and subway closures. They assessed each platform based on the number of hourly trips requested.

The study’s findings indicated that ridesharing platforms exceeded traditional taxi services during such urban emergencies. For instance, while both platforms experienced declines in requested rides after the NYC bombing on September 17, 2016, and the NYC truck attack on October 31, 2017, it was found that ridesharing platforms experienced less decline than taxi services. It was also discovered that higher population densities were less impacted than lower population densities, as well. it was also found that taxi requests experienced a decline during rush hours and evenings compared to midnight and during the day. in contrast, ride requests for ridesharing platforms were discovered to remain relatively stable.

“In light of our findings, service providers and city planners should reevaluate and improve their mobility platform, particularly under emergencies, disasters and hazards,” said Dr. Sean Qian, who is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Heinz College at CMU, and a co-author on the study. “Also, passengers with an urgent need to get someplace during emergencies may want to consider a ridesharing or ridehailing service first, provided that they have relatively stable supply and technological support.”

How will ridesharing platforms impact our lives in the coming years and decades, and can they be improved to better help us in emergencies? Only time will tell, and this is why we science! 

Sources: Information Systems Research, Carnegie Mellon University

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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