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Google plans to take on Uber with new carpooling service

by EditorAugust 31, 2016

Google is launching a new ride-sharing service focused on carpooling, reports The Wall Street Journal. Google launched a carpooling service through its Waze product back in May but it was limited to “a select group of employers” in the Bay Area.

Google will reportedly now open the program to all Waze users in San Francisco, with plans to expand the service if it’s successful. The program will not use Google’s self-driving vehicles, but will instead be a way to connect commuters traveling in the same direction. Most significantly, the service will use non-professional drivers, ideally people who work at the same company as their passengers.

The new Waze Commute will launch this fall and unlike Lyft and Uber, won’t act like an on-demand hailing platform for trips around town. Instead it’ll be similar to the ad-hoc casual carpool system where someone gets a ride from another person based on their commute route. The service is already available in Israel.

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In the Bay Area, the pilot is currently limited to select employers that have signed up for the service. While drivers would use the same app they currently employ to get directions, potential passengers would use theWaze Rider app.

While it is a likely competitor to the carpooling services of Uber Pool and Lyft Line, it would differ significantly in that Google would not have a fleet of drivers ready to pick up customers on-demand. Instead, the company wants to connect drivers with riders on routes they’re driving anyway. The current pilot program, charges a maximum of 54 cents per mile (significantly less than Uber and Lyft), and Google doesn’t currently take a cut.

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Any Waze user in San Francisco will be able to sign up as a driver, but potential riders will remain limited to employees of a number of large technology companies. In addition, riders are limited to two rides per day — the idea being they would use the service to get to and from work. Waze’s service can likely be thought of as more of a “carpool coordinator” than a ride-on-demand system.

Unlike Uber and Lyft, Google doesn’t plan to vet drivers with background checks. Instead, it will rely on user reviews to weed out problem drivers. This may not be as big a deal as one might think, as regular carpool riders might work at the same company, or at least in the same area, as their drivers.

Uber has been pushing its carpooling service heavily, particularly in Manhattan where it began offering $5 carpool rides earlier this year. Lyft expanded its carpooling service to a number of new cities earlier this year.

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