News & Opinion | January 3, 2017 9:00 am

MIT: We Can Replace Entire Taxi Fleets With 3,000 Carpooling Ubers

But should we?

My dad was carpooling to work 30 years ago.

Quaint? Hardly. He just had amazing prescience.

A new study from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory suggests that a fleet of just 3,000 four-passenger shared rides could do the same job as the 13,000 yellow cabs that currently flood New York. These cars could serve 98% of the city’s taxi demand while seriously decluttering the streets (and the air above them). The study was based on data collected from three million taxi rides, and utilized an algorithm that would reroute vehicles based on real-time requests and pivoting idle cars to areas with high demand.

“[This] system is particularly suited to autonomous cars, since it can continuously reroute vehicles based on real-time requests,” says Professor Daniela Rus, who led the study. It’s also conducive to services like Lyft and Uber, who are seeing ride-sharing take up an increasing portion of their total ride requests.

According to the BBC, people waste seven billion hours each year sitting in traffic, and cars waiting in traffic burn an extra three billion gallons of gas. The MIT study estimates congestion costs roughly $160 billion per year. As a New Yorker who remembers how peaceful the streets of the city were during the ‘98 strike — but also understands the cost, byzantine regulations and increasing fear of obsolescence yellow cab drivers face — this is bittersweet news.

As long as we’re a ways off from Johnny cabs, we’re cool.