Car pools offset spiralling fuel costs

September 17th, 2012 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Sep 17 (IANS) When it comes to something as personal and expensive as a car, sharing is not easy. But due to spiralling fuel costs, global warming and overcrowded cities, car-pooling is increasingly becoming an option.

Researchers from the Concordia Institute of Information Systems Engineering have piloted a computer model that can help determine how a car-sharing service can grow, maximise customer satisfaction and be profitable.

The researchers’ model can test hundreds of different scenarios and evaluate their respective performances. It can help predict the best strategy for car-sharing growth in any given location, be it increasing the number of vehicles at one station, merging stations, or opening a new station entirely, the journal Expert Systems with Applications reports.

“Given car-sharing’s goal of reducing congestion and carbon emissions, our work represents a potential boost to environmental sustainability,” explains Anjali Awasthi, assistant professor of engineering and computer science at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, since 2008. She spent many years researching car-sharing services in Europe, according to a Concordia University statement.

“I wanted to apply the lessons I’d learned overseas to the Montreal region,” recalls Awasthi, who was quick to enlist the help of her master’s student, Ahmed Al Fassi. They turned to local car-sharing company, Communauto.

Founded in 1994, Communauto - the Montreal-based organisation - is the oldest of its kind in North America. The company is now poised to enter Europe with its recent acquisition of French car-sharing company, Mobizen. The new expansion could mean up to 4,000 new Communauto cars on the streets of Paris, making this Concordia study particularly timely.

“The expertise and input of Awasthi and Fassi allowed us to improve the analysis necessary to determine our growth strategy,” says Communauto’s director of development and public relations, Marco Viviani. This was the first step that we hope will lead to a long-term collaboration, which will be particularly helpful as we grow into new markets overseas.”

Awasthi is now collaborating on another study with Communauto, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. This time her focus has switched from the stations to the car fleet itself, and she’ll be identifying possible ways to deploy vehicles more efficiently.

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