Self-driving taxis that use an algorithm to work together like a well-oiled machine could someday cut down on city traffic.
Researchers have created a computer program that can continually analyze incoming ride-hailing requests sent from a smartphone app and plot the most efficient course for each car in a self-driving fleet to take (SN Online: 11/21/17). Unlike standard taxis, which pick up customers spotted on the side of the road, this algorithm assigns cars to customers based on traffic conditions as well as the pickup and drop-off locations of all ride requests.
That’s not as immediate as flagging down a taxi. But the algorithm’s method required only about 5,400 cabs on the street at once, on average, compared with the average 7,700 cabs cruising the city at any given time in 2011. By serving customers using far fewer cars, such precision-guided fleets of self-driving vehicles could help curb traffic pollution and congestion (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18).