Ride-Hailing on the Rise, but Most Still Haven’t Given it a Try

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Most people are quite familiar with how taxis work. They’ve been around for decades and are nothing new, especially for those who live in cities and don’t own their own vehicles. Ride-hailing is much newer and despite its increasing popularity, most people still haven’t given it a try.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows a big increase in the number of people who use ride-hailing services. It found 36 percent of adults in the U.S. have used services like Uber and Lyft. That’s up from just 15 percent at the end of 2015.

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That double-digit increase in users varies depending on the demographic. A majority of those aged 18 to 29 have tried ride-sharing at 51 percent while only 24 percent of those over 50 use ride-sharing.

Income also plays a factor. Those with a household income over $75,000 are about twice as likely than those with an income less than $30,000 to use these services. Hitting the pavement is cheaper than a cab or ride-sharing so it makes sense those with tighter budgets would abstain.

It also depends a lot on where you live. The numbers are 45 percent for urban areas and 40 percent for suburban areas, but only 19 percent in rural regions.

The numbers all make a certain amount of sense. Just look at cabs. People in cities are more likely to use them because they don’t have their own vehicles. People with more cash in their wallet are also more likely to hail a cab rather than walking a few blocks.

There’s nothing surprising there, but what is surprising is that despite the jump in overall usage to 36 percent, that’s still a very small number. It means most people haven’t tried ride-sharing.

The whole idea of ride-sharing is a key part of our autonomous future. If you don’t own a car and cars don’t need drivers, then it’s easy to have them on-call for everyone no matter where you live.

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Rural areas simply don’t have the demand that makes urban areas attractive to ride-sharing drivers. Remove the driver and you remove that problem. A very small fleet of autonomous cars could easily service a remote area and still remain cost effective.

The bigger question is whether people will continue to even try ride-sharing. While younger and more affluent people appear open to the idea, those who are older or with lower incomes may continue to resist.

Ride-sharing isn’t going anywhere, but it’s far from replacing more traditional modes of transportation yet.