Sharing rides is a longstanding tradition that predates even horse-and-buggy travel. Recent innovations, however, make sharing a ride easier, more convenient, and more efficient. Innovative mobility services premised on pooling — getting multiple riders into the same vehicle — can lower travel costs, mitigate congestion, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also offer travelers more mobility choices between the traditional bookends of auto ownership and public transit.
The motivations for pooling are simple. There are economic incentives. Cars are among the most underused capital assets in our economy, sitting empty 95 percent of the time and usually carrying only one person the rest of the time. If cars were used more often, and if they carried two, three, or four passengers, their cost per rider, and per hour, would drop dramatically. But the benefits of pooling go well beyond cheaper mobility. If the car is carrying many people who might otherwise drive themselves, sharing can result in fewer vehicles on the road, which means less air pollution and energy use and fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and parking spaces. With more than 1 billion cars and light trucks in the world, the potential for major reductions in pollution and GHGs is huge — in the United States and most other countries.
We know that technologically, a future with many shared rides is now possible. What we don’t know is whether and under what conditions people will be willing to make that transition. Thinking about this possibility requires…
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