By Zulqarnain Haider
The keynote speaker Garrett van Ryzin, PhD, Cornell Tech and Lyft, works at the intersection of academia and cutting-edge industry. With experience in airline industry, Uber and now Lyft, he has seen the emergence of the transportation tech industry and its growth into a multibillion-dollar industry with great promise in years ahead. As the head of marketplace labs at Lyft, and as a pricing expert at Uber before that, he is well placed to comment on the role of operations research (O.R.) in the emergence and future of this sector.
His talk titled “O.R. and the Transportation Tech Revolution” placed O.R. alongside economics at the center of the emergence of transportation tech. As he started his talk, the room was already brimming to capacity. He identified the timeline of the emergence of transportation tech sector including the waves of ride sharing, autonomy, the more recent micromobility, and multimodal transportation.
He pointed out that the emergence of transportation technology at the beginning of 2010 was naturally made possible by twin forces of technology and economics. The technology that enabled ride sharing including mobile computing, mapping, GPS, and machine learning only came into public use two years before the advent of ride sharing platforms. Together, these technologies enabled the ability to automate transportation and the ensuing transportation tech revolution. On the market side, the issues of congestion, parking, safety, pollution, and the inconvenience of owning a car also helped catapult the ride sharing platforms to mass usage in such short time.
The third part of the keynote was about a possible vision for the future of transportation tech. Dr. van Ryzin shared that the movement from ownership to (on-demand) servicization was irreversible. He projected that in the near future, up to 80% of the customer trips may be made using autonomous, shared vehicles, saving an average family thousands of dollars. He also forecasted that transportation as a service (TaaS) will become a growing piece of the multitrillion dollar transportation industry pie.
Dr. van Ryzin concluded his talk by underscoring the importance and future role of O.R. in transportation tech. The current problems of routing, pricing, matching, market design, fleet sizing, and growth planning have extensively used the work from O.R., and operations researchers are an integral part of the work force of all transportation tech companies. He emphasized that an even greater opportunity lies ahead for O.R. as autonomy takes over transportation, and driverless cars become more pervasive, and even more decisions may need to be made using O.R. techniques. At the end of the session, the audience asked interesting questions about the future of urban mobility, autonomy, and the place of O.R. in the rapidly changing transportation tech landscape.