Study Says: Ride-Sharing Success Relies on Passenger Compatibility

Travelling with people with whom you are agreeable with is key to making ride sharing or carpooling work, according to a study.

In the research initiated by University of Waterloo professor Bissan Ghaddar and published in Transportation Research Part C, Ghaddar found that ensuring that ride-sharers are with passengers they actually like could potentially decrease total car use by nearly 60 percent. For Ghaddar, his study opens the doors to challenging prevailing beliefs about ride-sharing and developing a system in which the social component plays a major factor.

"Usually carpooling is about just matching people depending on geographical location and time of schedule," says Ghaddar. "We wanted to include the social aspect into the equation, because it's always awkward when there is silence in the car, especially if it's a long commute."

Ghaddar and his fellow researchers used the data in their research to develop GRAAL, a system they describe as "a data-driven methodology for GReen And sociAL carpooling."

Using Twitter feeds of would-be carpoolers to obtain data about their subject's personal interests, the researchers then looked at their social circles to determine an 'enjoyability measure.' The study factored in the like-mindedness of subjects by looking at their favorite topics, as well as their 'homophily,' a technical term for people's tendency to socialize with similar types of people.

As an aside, Ghaddar and his co-researchers also held a survey where people were asked to choose between a greener but less social-friendly ride option and a more social but less sustainable ride. Out of 237 responses, 39 percent opted for the latter choice.

Using a computer algorithm developed with IBM and two Italian universities, Ghaddar proceeded to match ride-sharers based not only on their identified personal preferences, but also their location and schedule. The researchers then applied this matchmaking algorithm on actual carpoolers in San Francisco and Rome.

At the study's conclusion, the researchers determined that happy, compatible ride sharers led to a 40 percent decline in car use in San Francisco and a 57 percent reduction in Rome.

"With the current new disruptive technologies for cars coming into effect, we're seeing nowadays that there's a shift to shared economy models, where people are planning to own less and less cars," Ghaddar said. "This could be a system that could put a dent in gridlock, reduce pollution and make commuting to work more enjoyable.”

"As a carpooler myself, I can't overestimate the importance of compatibility," Ghaddar said in closing.

With our jeepney culture, something tells me that being agreeable with other passengers and tolerating annoying people won’t be a major adjustment for us Filipinos.