Using carpooling options from rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft could reduce the number of vehicles on the road 75 percent without significantly impacting travel time, a new study by MIT found, and could reduce or even eliminate the need for taxis.

Such a shift would have a huge impact on insurers looking to sell commercial auto for taxis and could also affect personal auto insurers as more people turn to rideshare apps.

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) developed an algorithm that found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98 percent of the taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. Ninety-five percent of that demand could be covered by just 2,000 10-person vehicles compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in the city, the researchers said.

The new algorithm works in real time to reroute cars based on incoming requests and can also proactively send idle cars to areas with high demand—a step the researchers said speeds up service 20 percent.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that scientists have been able to experimentally quantify the trade-off between fleet size, capacity, waiting time, travel delay and operational costs for a range of vehicles—from taxis to vans and shuttles,” said CSAIL Professor Daniela Rus. “What’s more, the system is particularly suited to autonomous cars, since it can continuously reroute vehicles based on real-time requests.”

Source: MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory