Google Takes on Carpooling With Waze Spinoff App

Google has started testing a Waze-spinoff carpooling app. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

A new carpooling app from Google made its debut in the form of a small pilot test in Tel Aviv this week. RideWith is a spinoff of the Google-owned Israeli traffic app Waze, and is designed to help users meet up with a driver who has a similar commute. In the interest of time, money and potentially the environment, passengers can pay drivers who are already taking similar routes.

According to Ars Technica:

… riders can enter their commute info, then wait for an alert when a route-friendly driver has been found. Users can suss out drivers by way of profiles, prior riders’ reviews, and even through a chat option.

The announcement explained that the app creates a price quote, based on distance and wear-and-tear values, when someone seeks a ride (which they can edit with their own “maximum” value).

Some limits should keep the app from drawing the ire of taxi drivers a la Uber. Drivers using RideWith are only allowed to make two trips a day — intended to be the commute to and from work — and therefore wouldn’t be able to use the app for any notable revenue.

RideWith relies on Waze’s navigational data and user commuting data, which should facilitate carpooling matches. When Google purchased Waze in 2013, it gained access to a trove of data provided by users about things such as traffic, construction and accidents at a particular location at any given time. Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles announced an open data partnership deal with Waze that would give the app info about things like road closures, in exchange for the city getting real-time traffic data. When Google launched Sidewalk Labs, its new urban innovation company in the U.S., last month, CEO Larry Page said it would focus on improving all aspects of city life, including transportation efficiency.

Business Insider reports that if RideWith expands to other cities, it could be a competitor for Uber and Lyft, despite the working differences. Uber X is banned in Israel to protect traditional taxi drivers from losing business, though the company is expected to proceed in a regulatory battle for legal operating rights.

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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