New Study Suggests There Is a Safer Way to Uber During COVID-19 Pandemic

The world has been forced to shift and adapt to the will of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Most of us are committed to taking the necessary precautions, like wearing a mask, social distancing, and keeping our hands clean. Although traveling is a risk, we have shifted from flying to driving, from hotel rooms to camper vans, and from the board room to virtual meetings. While a road trip is much more controlled and safer than flying, a new study suggests that we can stay even safer by taking this step when driving or riding with others in an Uber. 

How to travel safely during a pandemic?

Driving seems to be the best way to get around during this air-borne pandemic. You can isolate, and short of bathroom breaks and fuel, you can completely control how many people you come in contact with. However, sometimes we might need to ride with people outside our bubble.

Does rolling the windows down in an Uber help against Covid?

Autoblog reports that a new study by Brown University suggests that having your car’s windows down as much as possible is the safest way to roll. Obviously, if you are in the car by yourself, this is less of an issue, but in many major cities where owning a car isn’t always possible or practical, rideshares like Uber is still necessary. It is in these moments when this study should hopefully help keep all parties in the car safer. 

A taxi driver wears a protective mask in a car amid the COVID-19 pandemic
A taxi driver wears a protective mask in a car amid the COVID-19 pandemic | Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images)

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Four scientists from Brown, Varghese Mathai, Asimanshu Das, Jeffrey Bailey, and Kenneth Breuer used complex computational fluid dynamic simulations to study how the aerosols that we breathe (some of which do escape even properly worn masks) move about a car’s cabin and how those flows change with the windows up or down. 

The scientists loosely based the COVID-19 study on a Toyota Prius

The researchers based their models loosely on a Toyota Prius due to how commonly they are used as taxis and other rideshare vehicles. The models also positioned the driver and passenger across from one another diagonally as this is the most common seating arrangement. 

Streamlines computed for the case in which the RL and FR windows are open. COVID-19 Uber
Streamlines computed for the case in which the RL and FR windows are open. | Brown University

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The researchers found that rolling down the windows opposite each party can create a flow of air that drastically lowers the number of particles in the car’s cabin. Now in the dead of winter, rolling down a window might get pretty uncomfortable. The studies found that even rolling the windows down halfway makes a big difference. However, simply craking the window a little bit doesn’t create enough airflow to be of much consequence. 

Cars can be much safer during COVID-19, but you still have to be careful

As we have now seen over the last 10 months, short of staying home and completely isolating, nothing is 100 percent effective against not contracting COVID-19. The name of the game is and will continue to be, trying to take as many precautions as possible to keep our communities and ourselves safe. These are trying times, and I understand that movement and a change of scenery are important, if not necessary, for some of us. 

COVID-19 shouldn’t stop us from living our lives; however, it does require that we change how we live them to be responsible and care for others. Be safe out there.