In China, other studies have found that the introduction of on-demand ride services persuaded more people to buy cars — and in Bangladesh’s capital, more people bought motorcycles.
One explanation from researchers is that those car and motorcycle owners wanted to earn money from offering rides. That is great for many passengers and vehicle owners, but it may have undermined other public goals such as encouraging less driving and more use of public transportation.
In the U.S., the research on how the introduction of Uber and Lyft has affected car ownership is mixed. Most Americans already own cars, of course.
There’s a flaw with measuring the effect of ride apps on car ownership, because it doesn’t necessarily say much about potential harm. Fewer cars owned might still result in more driving, pollution and traffic.
In the U.S., Uber and Lyft have contributed to more traffic in many cities partly because ride service drivers rack up a lot of miles without passengers. Wadud told me that the data from India wasn’t good enough to study those other effects of ride services.
Wadud also said that it could help India’s future if people find ride apps to be a good alternative to owning their own car or driving more. As countries grow richer, the pattern has been that more people buy cars and drive more. That can be great for individuals, but it may also produce more traffic and pollution and contribute more to climate change.