How to Hail a Passenger

A new study uses GPS data to analyze taxi-driver performance

4 min read

5 April 2011—Sure, your smartphone can help you find a cab, and it probably uses GPS to do it. But now that most taxi drivers are also equipped with GPS, what kinds of smart applications are helping them find you? The millions of taxi GPS devices are creating huge stores of data that researchers are mining to solve routing problems, improve dispatch operations, and shake up the economics of transportation.

Research reported in March at the IEEE Computer Society’s 2011 PerCom conference gives some new insight into a little-studied corner of taxi systems—the decision-making and behavioral tendencies of drivers who are looking for the next passenger. Seven researchers, hailing from France’s Institut Télécom SudParis, Zhejiang University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, used a year’s worth of GPS data from taxis in Hangzhou, China, hoping to determine whether hunting for passengers or waiting for them generates more business for a driver. The research is a step toward GPS-based software that can recommend more profitable behavior for cabbies, but whether that behavior will be good for both drivers and riders is an open question.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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