The drawbacks of “real-time” ridesharing are a series of trade-offs. While “real-time” innovations can offer greater flexibility and can provide valuable travel data, those benefits need to be balanced against reductions in travel reliability and a loss of privacy.

Flexibility vs. Reliability Trade-Off
A large trade-off involved in the use of “real-time” ridesharing is the loss of trip reliability in exchange for trip flexibility. However, the degree to which these two features are traded-off depends on the type of rideshare trip being sought. While traditional rideshare opportunities suffer from a lack of flexibility, they are quite reliable. On the opposite end of the spectrum, immediate rideshare trips are very flexible, but provide little service reliability. Occasional trips, where matching takes place sufficiently far in advance of the start of the trip to allow for alternate travel arrangements to be made, tends to offer a balance between flexibility and reliability.

Valuable Travel Data vs. Loss of Privacy
“Real-time” rideshare services operating on smart phones with integrated GPS have the ability to generate much more valuable data than simple rideshare trip confirmation. If data were to be collected throughout the day, detailed travel patterns including the prevalence of trip chaining could be determined. From an urban planning and transport modeling perspective, this information could be used to supplement periodic travel diaries and improve the input data used in urban modeling endeavors. With a sufficiently large number of these devices collecting data, traffic patterns and congestion information could be inferred. This information could be quite valuable to public agencies or rideshare providers themselves, however all of these examples of data collection involve a loss of personal privacy for the user of the smart phone. A fundamental challenge with future use of “real-time” rideshare services will be balancing the use of technology for innovative data gathering, while ensuring that personal privacy is respected.

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