According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Detroit has the highest unemployment rate of any large city in the U.S. Moreover, in excess of 10,000 Detroit area residents travel each day to work in communities where there is no public transportation. These factors make the city an appropriate location for a living-lab experiment to study how ride-sharing services could improve the lives of underserved populations when they have better access to basic services.
UMSI assistant professor Tawanna Dillahunt and associate professor Tanya Rosenblat are co-principal investigators on a $149,390 National Science Foundation grant for Smart and Connected Communities titled “EAGER: Inclusive Design and Operations for Integrated-Vehicle-and-Service-Sharing Systems.” The principal investigator is Siqian Shen, U-M Assistant Professor, Industrial & Operations Engineering.
The team plans to work with the ride-sharing service Uber, community groups and a Detroit grocery store to better understand how shared vehicle services can give residents access to grocery stores, child care, jobs, job interviews, healthcare services and other appointments. The end result of this EAGER study will articulate the barriers that these communities face and show improved algorithms for optimizing resource allocation.
In a broader sense, this work will contribute to the understanding of how technologies are used across varying socioeconomic groups. The knowledge could lead to new models for innovations that have a positive societal impact. The investigators also hope to collaborate on educational initiatives and outreach programs at the University of Michigan such as the ADVANCE program and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) to engage female and underrepresented minority students in early research and encourage them to apply for STEM-related graduate programs.