For many drivers, Waze is the go-to app for circumnavigating pesky traffic jams. Now, the Alphabet-owned company is making a risky move into ride-hailing — or, more specifically, carpooling. On Wednesday, Waze announced the nationwide rollout of Waze Carpool, a dedicated app that lets drivers offer rides to people who are traveling on a similar route.
First launched in the Bay Area in 2016, Waze Carpool has since expanded to five additional states in the US as well as Waze’s country of origin, Israel. The company says it wants to leverage its “superior routing technology” to help commuters fill empty seats in their cars and, in the process, hopefully reduce the number of cars on the road. And with a community of 100 million active monthly users worldwide, Waze Carpool has big ambitions about its impact on daily transportation habits.
Waze Carpool lets riders and drivers choose their carpool buddies. The company says that the “best matches” — those closest to a preferred route or a co-worker on the same shift — will appear at the top of the list, and payment will be handled within the app. Connecting drivers and riders on Waze Carpool will become more efficient as more drivers and riders sign on.
To be sure, what Waze is offering differs greatly from Uber and Lyft’s respective carpooling services. Drivers are paired with riders with nearly identical commutes based on home and work addresses. In California, Waze Carpool riders are charged a maximum rate of 54 cents per mile, which is the current IRS reimbursement rate for business travel by car. And drivers and riders are limited to two rides per day. This is not a money-making service; rather, it’s an attempt by Google to test the waters in the growing ride-sharing market.
Now that it’s nationwide, Waze Carpool will be leaning on partnerships with other tech companies in order to scale rapidly. Starting on October 10th, Waze Carpool says it will be available at 50 Amazon Fulfillment Center sites, allowing Amazon employees to carpool to work together. The company is also partnering with cities, businesses, transit agencies, and civic organizations as it seeks to grow its presence.
Waze is holding an event in New York City on Wednesday to announce more details about the service.