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Data Mining Reveals When a Yellow Taxi Is Cheaper Than Uber

So here’s an interesting question: is Uber cheaper than conventional taxis? Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Cecilia Mascolo at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and a few pals who have compared Uber’s prices with those of Yellow Taxis in New York City. They say the ability to compare prices in this way should help commuters choose the cheapest options and thereby help control costs for all cab users.

The team’s method is possible because of a 2014 freedom of information request for the data associated with New York City Yellow Taxi journeys during the whole of 2013.

This data set is vast, covering hundreds of millions of trips and tipping the scales at 50 gigabytes. It consists of the location of every pick up and drop off as well as the fare paid for each journey.

Comparing it with Uber’s price at any instant is straightforward. Mascolo and co took the coӧrdinates of each journey made in a Yellow Taxi in 2013 and then asked Uber how much it would charge for the same journey using the cheapest version of the service, called Uber X.

Uber then suggested a minimum and maximum possible fare, which Mascolo and co used to take an average. They then compared this figure against the Yellow Taxi fare.

The results make for interesting reading. “Uber appears more expensive for prices below 35 dollars and begins to become cheaper only after that threshold,” say Mascolo and co.

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