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Want fewer cars on the road? Carpool with people you actually like

The secret to saving the planet may have more to do with eHarmony than you might think. A new study from the University of Waterloo found that carpooling with people you actually like could decrease car use by 57%

To come to this conclusion, researchers used social media analytics, algorithms, and a computer simulation to match would-be carpoolers. Instead of just matching people based on geography and schedule, they looked at the social aspect, too. Turns out that when car rides weren’t filled with awkward silences and squabbles over radio channels (Sirius’s Third Wave channel is the only option, people), carpooling was actually enjoyable and people were happy to take part, leaving their cars at home. When carpoolers actually got along, car use dropped by 57% in their Rome study, and by 40% in San Francisco.

“Usually carpooling is about just matching people depending on geographical location and time of schedule,” said Waterloo professor Bissan Ghaddar, who authored the study, which was recently published in Transportation Research Part C (…did your subscription lapse?). “We believed that we really needed to look at the social aspect, and our initial data analysis agreed with us.”  

So app creators, there is apparently room in the market for something like eHarmony, but for carpoolers.

[Photo: Flickr user Joe Le MerouML