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Behind the tap-of-your-phone convenience of hailing an Uber or Lyft lies an inconvenient truth: Such rides generate more carbon emissions than simply driving yourself.

The increased pollution comes primarily from “deadheading,” that is, drivers traveling to pick up a passenger or cruising the streets while waiting for a ride request. Deadheading accounts for about 40% of the miles logged by Uber and Lyft vehicles in California, according to recent analysis by state air quality regulators.

“That means that for a one-mile trip, on average there’s about another 0.7 miles of driving around to deliver that trip,” said Don Anair, clean vehicles program research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group that recently released its own report backing up some of the state’s findings. “People don’t see that. They only see the vehicle pull up and they take their trip.”

But the status quo may not hold for long. The California Air Resources Board is now developing the world’s first regulations to reduce the climate impacts of ride hailing. The rules, expected by year’s end, seek to rein in traffic and pollution from an industry that has quickly risen to overtake taxis, in large part by avoiding regulation to begin with.

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