It seems you can’t throw a rock in the street these days without hitting a ride-sharing vehicle (but don’t do that, seriously). Google is going to make that marketplace even more crowded with a major expansion it has planned for the carpooling function included in its Waze navigation app.
The tech company will be launching the Waze carpool service in several U.S. cities as well as Latin America over the next few months after tests in Israel and San Francisco went well, Waze chief Noam Bardin told The Wall Street Journal.
This move will finally pit Google directly against its former buddy Uber, something that’s been buzzed about for years: While Google invested $258 million in Uber in Aug. 2013 through its Google Ventures capital arm, there were rumors two years ago that the tech giant was planning a ride-sharing service to rival Uber and Lyft.
The Waze carpooling service is not currently a direct competitor to UberPool or Lyft Line. Those offerings are effectively taxi cab operations with professional drivers, while Waze puts everyday drivers in touch with folks who need a ride and are heading the same way.
Sounds a bit like organized hitchhiking — or like one of those “Who needs a ride to Saginaw for Fall Break?” posts on college bulletin boards.
“Can we get the average person on his way to work to pick someone up and drop them off once in a while? That’s the biggest challenge,” Bardin explained.
There’s also the price: A trip from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco cost a Waze user $4.50 to carpool, while the same route using UberPool and Lyft Line cost $10.57 and $12.40, respectively, WSJ notes. However, Waze rides have to be requested hours in advance, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed a driver.
In an effort to keep Waze drivers from turning semi-professional like Uber and Lyft drivers, riders only pay drivers $.54 per mile, which is also the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate.
Waze also doesn’t take a cut of a driver’s earning at this point, but there will likely be an extra 15% fee for riders soon if the service takes off, Bardin told the WSJ.
And with a company like Google behind the wheel, there could come a day when Waze uses self-driving cars from the company’s Waymo driverless vehicle division.