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Waze launches carpooling pilot for the Bay Area

After initial experiment in Israel, where Waze was founded, carpooling service launches in SF Bay

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
May 16, 2016
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4579

I'm sure Uber and Lyft will love the extra competition.

Waze, the Google-owned mobile navigation app, today announced Waze Carpool, a pilot program in the Bay Area designed to build a community of drivers and passengers joining each other for rides to and from work. While the company last summer launched a carpooling service in Israel (where Waze was founded), this is the first time Waze has piloted the program in the U.S.

I’ve reached out to the company to glean details about the success of its Israel program, but they wouldn't share specifics. A spokesperson at Coburn Communication, Waze’s agency partner, did confirm that this is "similar to the experiment that Waze began testing in Israel," and that the original program "continues to grow."



Though it’s tempting to compare a carpooling service from Waze to ridesharing services from Lyft and Uber, there are some key differences. For one, this isn’t intended to be a supplementary income for drivers. Rather, Waze says it’s simply a way to connect drivers who already use Waze with their co-workers, who simply split the cost of gas.

Secondly, Waze isn’t going broadly for any and all individual drivers. Instead, the company is working with specific companies on an invite-only basis, including UCSF, Adobe and Walmart Global eCommerce, to roll this program out. Cumulatively, over 25,000 employees at these companies will be able to test the carpooling service.

To use Waze Carpool, drivers simply use the main Waze app. Passengers must download a new app called Waze Rider to connect with drivers.

Less than two months ago, Lyft did launch its own carpooling service in the Bay Area in partnership with the MTC’s 511 Rideshare program. As with its core ridesharing service, Lyft Carpool is intended to be a profitable enterprise for participating drivers, with Lyft claiming drivers can make up to $400 per month for commutes between San Francisco and Palo Alto.

As we’ve mentioned before, any moves made by Waze into the ridesharing space are interesting given the various entangled relationships between its parent company, Google, and the main providers in the space, Uber and Lyft.

For example, Google Maps regularly offers Uber as a mode of transportation (alongside driving, biking, walking, and public transportation) when you look up directions. It even gives you an estimated fare for the ride. Additionally, Lyft was a launch partner for Waze's Transport SDK, a devkit unveiled in January allowing third-party developers to integrate Waze's offerings.

And, for what it’s worth, I feel as though the majority of Lyft and Uber drivers switch to Waze for turn-by-turn directions instead of relying on the default navigation offered through the companies’ apps.

In other words, with a potentially silent but vast network of hardcore users, very strong navigation data, and support from one of the largest tech companies in the world (Alphabet/Google), Waze could end up being a potent competitor for Lyft and Uber in the U.S.


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