Between Financial Incentive and Limited Convenience: Research Team Investigates Ride-sharing Decisions

Published on

illustration of different transportation models
Illustration: Christiane Kunath

An interdisciplinary research team from TU Dresden at the Chair of Network Dynamics headed by Prof. Marc Timme (Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden – cfaed & Institute of Theoretical Physics) has studied people's motivation to use "shared mobility" offers. In ride-sharing, trips of two or more customers with similar origins and destinations are combined into a single cab ride. The concept can make a significant contribution to sustainable urban mobility. However, its acceptance depends on human needs and behavior. For example, while shared rides typically offer a financial advantage, passengers might suffer drawbacks in terms of comfort and trip duration. These factors give rise to different adoption behaviors that explain usage patterns observed in 360 million real-world ride requests from New York City and Chicago in 2019. The study has now been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ride-sharing (or ride-pooling) is most efficient in places with high demand and a large number similar ride requests. Still, it has been difficult to answer if and under what conditions people are actually willing to adopt ride-sharing. In their study, the researchers decipher the complex incentive structure underlying the decision of whether or not to adopt ride-sharing. In a game-theoretic model, they describe the sharing adoption of all users who book rides from the same location.

The researchers demonstrate how interactions between those individuals lead to two qualitatively different patterns of acceptance. In one, willingness to share rides is consistently high. In the other case, however, the willingness to share rides decreases as the overall demand for rides increases. If there are only few users in the system, the number of ride-sharing bookings increases with the number of ride requests, yet if there are many users, the usage levels out. The relative amount of shared ride requests therefore decreases - despite optimized routing with shorter detours for the passengers when demand is high.

"Passengers speculate on being able to take advantage of the cheaper fare when sharing a ride, but they actually hope to be transported alone and thus directly from A to B due to low demand for rides," explains David Storch, a doctoral student at the Chair of Network Dynamics and lead author of the study. When demand is high, for example during typical rush hours, the prospect of being transported as a single passenger is lower - "Passengers almost certainly lose comfort as they share a ride. They tend to book the more expensive fare more often to travel alone."

In an analysis of more than 360 million real trip requests in New York City and Chicago, the researchers were able to identify the demand patterns they had previously found in their model, supporting the validity of their findings. The analysis shows that, depending on the starting point of the trip, both adoption patterns exist in parallel in the two cities. Malte Schröder, research associate at the Chair, interprets the results as follows: "Since both adoption patterns coexist in cities, a moderate increase of the financial incentives is probably already sufficient to strongly increase the acceptance of ride-sharing in other places and for other user groups."

Incentive-driven transition to high ride-sharing adoption.
Authors: David-Maximilian Storch, Marc Timme, Malte Schröder
Nature Communications
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23287-6

Illustration: Christiane Kunath

Press inquiries:

TU Dresden, Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden

Dr. Malte Schröder, Chair of Network Dynamics
Phone: +49 351 463 43976

Matthias Hahndorf
Science Communications
Phone: +49 351 463 42847

About the Chair of Network Dynamics

The Chair of Network Dynamics headed by Prof. Marc Timme was created in 2017. The aim of this TU Dresden Strategic Professorship affiliated with both the former Cluster of Excellence “Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden” (cfaed) and the Institute for Theoretical Physics is to connect insights from Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics with applications in Biology and Engineering. It is the first chair of network dynamics of this cross-disciplinary kind in Central Europe. Since networks are almost everywhere around us the research team aims for a unifying understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying the collective dynamics of large, nonlinear interconnected systems by combining first principles theory with data-driven analysis and modelling. A substantial part of their work focuses on investigating emergent phenomena and developing conceptually new perspectives on complex systems as well as the theoretical computational tools necessary to understand these systems. This fundamental understanding forms the basis to predict, and eventually control, the dynamics of complex networked systems across disciplines.
More information:

About the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed)

cfaed is a research cluster at TU Dresden (TUD). As an interdisciplinary research center for perspectives of electronics it is located at the TUD as a central scientific unit, but also integrates nine non-university research institutions in Saxony as well as TU Chemnitz as cooperating institutes. With its vision, the cluster aims to shape the future of electronics and initiate revolutionary new applications, such as electronics that do not require boot time, are capable of THz imaging, or support complex biosensor technology. These innovations make conceivable performance improvements and applications that would not be possible with the continuation of today's silicon chip-based technology. In order to achieve its goals, cfaed combines the thirst for knowledge of the natural sciences with the innovative power of engineering.

Go back