Uber and its ilk can produce up to 50 per cent more emissions than private vehicles.
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Ride-sharing or ride-hailing services like Uber contribute more CO2 emissions to the atmosphere than their private car counterparts, according to a new scientific report.

In the paper Ride-Hailing’s Climate Risks: Steering a Growing Industry Toward a Clean Transportation Future, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found the use of these services in the United States creates an estimated 69 per cent more pollution than the trips they displace.

There were two main reasons for these increased emissions. The first was the practice of "deadheading", a term referring to the distance travelled by drivers either waiting for ride requests to come through or travelling to collect a passenger.

The second was that rideshare trips often replace lower-carbon transportation options for consumers, like public transport, cycling or walking.

But even when excluding public transport and other non-vehicle options, non-pooled ride-sharing services still produced 50 per cent more emissions than private cars, the UCS said.

The UCS also pointed to the fact Uber and services like it had "increased local pollution and exacerbated traffic congestion in dense urban areas" in the US.

The report suggested a number of solutions should be implemented to ensure ride-sharing services help and not hinder the vision of a low-emissions future.

These solutions included electrifying the vehicles, increasing the number of pooled trips (where passengers share their ride with one or more occupants) and encouraging and improving other mass transit options.

UCS said that while an electric ride-hailing trip could cut emissions by about 50 per cent (compared to the average private car trip), an electric and pooled ride-hailing trip could reduce emissions by about 70 per cent.

While this latest research has come out of the United States, the uptake of ride-sharing services is also undisputedly high in Australia.

According to an April 2019 study by Roy Morgan, over 20 per cent of Australia's population travels by Uber in an average three months, with just over 21 per cent travelling by a taxi in the same period.

By comparison, a US study conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2019 found around 36 per cent of all Americans reported using a ride-hailing service at least once.

The rise in ride-share and ride-hailing services has seen competitors like Taxify (now Bolt), DiDi, Ola and GoCatch enter the Australian market in recent years, with Roy Morgan reporting that 90,000 Australians already use a rideshare service other than Uber over an average three-month period.

UberPool, which allows riders to share their trip with strangers to reduce the cost, arrived in Australia in early 2018.