Uber and its competitors have long claimed that their carpooling services are good for the environment. With fewer people riding in their own cars, there’s less gas emissions to choke the air. Until today that was just a marketing line, but now there’s data to back it up.
Uber released information about UberPool, its carpool option, in a blog post. It’s the first time the company has published national statistics on the service.
The results show that so far millions of trips have been taken on UberPool since it launched last year. Thousands take it five times a week during commuting hours in the cities where UberPool is active — San Francisco, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and, most recently, Austin. In some concentrated neighborhoods, match rates during this time of day are at 90 percent.
All this translates to fewer emissions, according to Uber. The company estimated that cars have driven 674,000 fewer miles thanks to the shared ride service, a calculation made as though a shared ride’s alternative is a private car. “Conservatively assuming that every SF UberX vehicle is a Toyota Prius — thus getting its gas mileage of 50 mpg — UberPool trips saved around 13,500 gasoline gallons,” Uber data scientist Conor Myhrvold said in the post. Of course, not every SF UberX vehicle is a Prius, although many are.
The companies may make claims about environment friendliness, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. How were the passengers taking UberPool and Lyft Line getting around before? Are they abandoning public transportation in favor of the door-to-door service, or are they selling their own vehicles? We can’t accurately measure carpooling’s environmental impact without understanding what it’s replacing.
The other missing fact from Uber’s blog post is what percentage of passengers take UberPool over its other products. The company has chosen not to release that information. Lyft’s founder Logan Green has said that its version of the carpool service, Lyft Line, makes up “the majority” of its rides in San Francisco. Sidecar’s Shared Rides account for 40 percent of its rides in the cities where it’s launched.
Until now, Uber has remained a little quieter about its carpool option, but like Lyft and Sidecar it believes on-demand carpooling will transform mass transportation. It cuts the cost of a trip in half from the traditional rideshare product, making it a viable option for those who otherwise couldn’t afford ridesharing. Academic researchers and government officials are eager to study how the increase in access will change local transit patterns.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.