The inspiration for his co-authored research paper, Brad Greenwood said, materialized rather organically.
“I was in the backseat of an UberX vehicle,” Greenwood said, “and I wrote myself a cell phone note: ‘Call Sunil about writing an Uber paper.’”
According to research by Greenwood and Sunil Wattal, professors at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the introduction of UberX, a low-cost, ride-sharing service, has led to the reduction of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities in California.
Their research findings have been featured widely in mainstream national and international media outlets, including Newsweek, Fox News, Forbes, Canada’s Globe and Mail, Britain’s Daily Mail, Quebec’s La Presse, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Tech Times, and others. Their working paper, titled, “Show Me The Way To Go Home: An Empirical Investigation of Ride Sharing and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Homicide,” is under review for publication in an academic journal.
Uber is a mobile-app-based service through which consumers can call for transportation to and from any destination. The system requires credit card registration prior to usage, which means no physical money changes hands in the transaction. Available in more than 50 countries, Uber’s popularity has soared recently, and an August 2015 report from Reuters suggests that Uber’s bookings in 2016 could exceed $26 billion.
Greenwood and Wattal are believed to have written the first academic paper investigating the effects of Uber on reducing alcohol-related vehicular homicides.
“The issue is timely and fresh. Everyone is talking about Uber,” said Wattal, an Associate Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at Fox.
“There was evidence that Uber could be linked to such decreases in fatalities, but the question as to whether it could be tied together rigorously, and under certain circumstances, wasn’t yet known,” said Greenwood, an Assistant Professor of MIS.
Using publicly available data obtained from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Report System, for a period between January 2009 and September 2014, Greenwood and Wattal analyzed reports that included the blood-alcohol content of the driver, contributing factors like weather, speed, and environmental factors, and the number of parties involved in the accidents. Greenwood and Wattal said they chose to review California’s data because Uber is headquartered in San Francisco, and the ride-sharing service has been available in that state longer than in any other.
In their research, they found that alcohol-related deaths decreased by an average of 3.6-5.6 percent in cities where UberX service, the least-expensive service offered by Uber, is available. They also found limited evidence of change in conjunction with the use of Uber Black, the most-expensive service, which requires a luxury vehicle.
Other findings from the co-authored research paper include:
- The effects of UberX on the number of alcohol-related fatalities took hold, on average, from nine to 15 months following Uber’s introduction to a particular city, “after Uber has built up a network of customers and drivers in that marketplace,” Greenwood said.
- There was little to no effect in periods of likely surge pricing, a system that allows Uber to increase the cost of the services rendered dependent upon the consumer demand.
- There was no effect between Uber and overall deaths, indicating that the entry of Uber is not making roads more dangerous for sober people.
For Greenwood, who has previously studied the societal benefits of technologies, and Wattal, who has researched online crowdfunding and peer-to-peer economies, their research interests overlapped, which made this project a natural choice on which they could collaborate. Unsurprisingly, their Uber research, which was independently funded, has generated requests for follow-up studies.
“We could try to replicate this study in the context of other states to see if the data is robust,” Wattal said, “but that could take considerable time, given that Uber is not available everywhere and that data is not as readily available in other states.”
“The options are endless for this type of work,” Greenwood said.
In 10 years, Hayley Leather would like to own a zoo.
With this professional aspiration in mind, the 22-year-old Fox School of Business student has focused her efforts on attaining the business expertise every zookeeper requires, while studying within Fox’s Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management department.
Leather’s research paper in a related area – into the 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill that devastated animal habitats in the Gulf of Mexico – won the 2015 American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) White Paper contest.
Her essay, titled Why the BP Macondo Gulf Blowout is Important…and It’s Not What You Think, explores the complexities and uses of additional insured status and contractual indemnity in the oil industry, and the potential effects of restrictions. Leather synthesized legal precedent and interviewed experts in the field to uncover how unusual anti-indemnity strategies could change the face of risk contracting in the oil industry.
“This wasn’t anything that had been done before,” said Leather, a Risk Management and Insurance major. “Previously companies just did as they assumed, but BP really challenged all that.”
Winning essays were deemed to have communicated the significance of risk management in the future of wholesale, excess or surplus insurance lines in the manner of previous White Paper winners. Leather, one of two winners nationally, received $2,000 for her award-winning paper and an expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. in May 2015 to attend the AAMGA Annual Meeting. While there, a mentor from the risk industry will be paired with Leather.
“I’ll be able to hear what’s going on in the industry and have a contact to talk to the whole time to explain it to me,” Leather said.
Leather credits Storm Wilkins, Assistant Professor of Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management, with encouraging her to enter the contest. Wilkins also serves as faculty advisor for Temple’s Sigma Chapter of the risk management fraternity, Gamma Iota Sigma, of which Leather is a member. Leather, who had written previously on the BP crisis, knew that expanding upon the topic for the contest made sense, given her interest in animal welfare and risk management.
“Hayley researched the issues thoroughly, and even reached out to an industry expert to ensure that her work was first-rate,” Wilkins said. “I encourage my students to enter competitions such as the AAMGA White Paper contest because it allows them showcase their abilities beyond Temple University.”
Leather, who transferred into the Fox School in Summer 2014, said her brother, Jonathan, FOX ’09, pushed her into the Risk Management field. Previously, she had been a science major.
“I wasn’t happy with the idea of staring at a computer or microscope all day. I didn’t want to do that,” Leather said. “I love business in general and something that is important to all business is managing the risks.”
Merging her love of animals with her penchant for business, Leather has interned with the Navy Marine Mammals Program in San Diego. Somewhat closer to home, the native of Cheltenham, Pa., also has interned as a zookeeper at the Wild World of Animals in Eighty Four, Pa. Leather hopes to one day work for SeaWorld Entertainment, managing risks for one of the organization’s seven parks, before applying her business savvy when opening her own zoo.