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Uber & Co. are environmentally harmful

On the whole, driving services are considered environmentally friendly because they often use newer and therefore more economical vehicle models than private users with their cars. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (USA) have now found out that they are not nearly as clean. This is mainly due to the empty runs, for which a lot of fuel is consumed without economic benefit.

The scientists have now presented their study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. For this purpose, data from private cars were compared with those from ride services such as Uber and Lyft. First of all, the pollutant emissions of ride services are lower, because mostly new ride models with lower pollutant emissions are on the road. However, fuel consumption is about 20 per cent higher due to the many empty trips between jobs, which also means more pollutants in the air.

In addition, more trips automatically mean more traffic jams, more noise and, of course, more accidents. Already in 2018, it was calculated that driving services in San Francisco were responsible for half of all traffic jams in the city between 2010 and 2016. It was also calculated that a single trip with a ride service causes additional costs for the general public of 30 to 35 percent than if one uses one's own car. The additional costs increase even more if a journey by public transport is substituted instead of a journey in a private car.

A solution is offered by shared rides, when several passengers who have to travel in the same direction share a car. This system is already practised at many airports around the world, but it is easy to implement because there is only one direction to go from the airport, namely away from the airport. In everyday life, such journeys can probably only be used sensibly with precise planning; spontaneous journeys would then become the exception rather than the rule.

Even dirtier than modern driving services remain, of course, normal taxi services, which have always had empty runs since their invention and have thus been causing more traffic on the roads for decades. In addition, the cars are much older than those of the new services. Their vehicles are mostly already equipped with electric motors and therefore have no problems complying with the strict rules of many environmental zones in Europe and worldwide. A complete switch to electric would regulate the problem with air pollution, but it will not reduce congestion in the cities either.