Google is launching a carpooling service in San Francisco that could take business away from ride-hailing leaders Uber and Lyft.
Since May, Google has been testing out a carpool service using the Waze navigation mobile app for commuters to share rides to work, reports the Wall Street Journal. The system connects Waze riders with drivers heading in the same direction. Waze, which was acquired by Google in 2013, offers a distinct real-time direction service where users can share information with others on traffic conditions, accidents, and police patrol cars.
Google and Waze will be opening up the program to all San Francisco bay area Waze users this fall. During the pilot program, riders have been charged at most 54 cents a mile, which is cheaper than taxi rides or Uber and Lyft rides; for now, Google hasn’t been making any revenue off the service.
So far in the pilot, riders have been about 25,000 San Francisco bay area employees of large companies, including Google, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Adobe Systems Inc. Riders have been limited to just two rides a day, providing commutes to and from work.
Google and Waze began testing carpooling services last year in Israel, where Waze was founded. The test program took off in user trips, and the Waze ridesharing service has been expanded to all hours in most parts of Israel.
The relationship between Google and Uber has been changing into a more competitive stance. Google invested $258 million in Uber as the technology giant explored mobility services that could fit with its self-driving car project. Google parent-company Alphabet executive David Drummond said Monday that he resigned from Uber’s board because of the increasing competition between the companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. Uber had been using Google’s mapping software for its drivers, but recently began developing its own maps.
Both Google and Uber have been testing self-driving cars. Google has taken the clear lead since launching the project in 2009 and putting on 1.8 million miles of autonomous car testing. Uber has been testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, and recently announced plans to run self-driving taxis in that city. Earlier this month, Uber acquired Ottomotto, a self-driving truck firm that had been founded by ex-Google employees.
Google, like Silicon Valley-neighbor Apple Inc., has been exploring ways to play a leading role in mobility technologies and services of the future. Acquiring Waze and analyzing its user data has been one part of it; Google has also been considering adding a driverless ridesharing service as a business model, according to people familiar with the matter.
Waze drivers won’t be employees, but will be similar to Uber and Lyft where drivers can make income giving rides to passengers using the mobile app. Waze boats having 65 million active users, many of whom share information with others on avoiding traffic accidents and to watch out for police cars and intersection red-light cameras.