Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Google's Waze subsidiary opened up its Waze Carpool ride-sharing service in limited mode in the San Francisco Bay area. Waze Carpool had been introduced earlier in 2016 to a select group of employers to support their employees in the region.
Waze already provides navigation to more than 700,000 drivers in the Bay area, incorporating real-time traffic feeds compiled from crowd-sourced data. Google acquired Waze in 2013 and the company has not made any efforts to monetize the service. But now, with a vast, established user total, this could change.
Unlike Uber or Lyft, Waze Carpool is not intended to be a way for drivers to earn a livelihood, but rather enable them to share commuting expenses with someone headed in the same direction. The service could also reduce traffic congestion at peak times by reducing the number of cars on the road. There are also ecological benefits, which could be an attractive feature for potential users.
Individuals who wish to participate in the service will first be required to download a free Waze Rider app available for iOS and Android devices. The app communicates all ride details between drivers and riders and handles all payments as well. The Waze Rider app matches riders and drivers who have similar commutes based on their work and home addresses. The service uses Waze's mapping capabilities to match carpool commuters from the same local community. It also limits drivers and riders to use the service just twice a day: to go to work and to return home.
As Google increases its focus on autonomous driving, ride sharing could become an important element of its strategy and Waze Carpool could bring valuable learning to Google. The company has ambitions to have a commercial launch of a driverless car in the near future as transportation becomes a serious business venture. This is the ultimate location-based service.
Waze Carpool isn't the first ride-sharing service or app and many large companies have programmes in place to support employees in this regard. Nonetheless, there are many empty car seats on the roads every morning. Carpooling limits people's flexibility compared with using their own cars, but adds a valuable option, especially in cities without a comprehensive public transport system. Furthermore, as Google builds up enough users to create a dynamic database of available rides, carpooling could become easy enough to persuade many people to share a car.