Waze is the navigation app from Alphabet, the corporate parent of Google. It has also been the basis of a carpool app tested in the San Francisco Bay area. Its operation is simple. Just put in the location you need a ride to. If someone else using Waze is going to the same place, that driver can arrange to pick you up and take you along.
The app works the other way, too. Someone with a car who is looking for riders to share gas and toll money can put the word out on Waze to let people know a ride is available. It’s like Uber and Lyft but different. With those ride hailing services, ferrying people around is the driver’s primary business. With the Waze carpool app, the driver is already going someplace anyway. Why not offer a ride to a person headed for the same destination and earn a little gas money into the bargain?
As of June 6, the Waze carpool app will be available to anyone living in California. Los Angeles already has the most Waze users in the world, according to Josh Fried, head of Waze Carpool. “Carpooling takes density and doing it on a limited capacity, you can only learn so much,” Fried says. “We wanted to expand to a Waze hub. It’s our first attempt to see if we can go big into a region.”
Google is also developing Waymo, a company specializing in autonomous driving cars. It has a fleet of 100 specially equipped Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on order and plans to add more. But the Waymo and Waze business models are completely different, Fried says. “We have two different roadmaps.” He points out that it will be at least a decade before self driving cars reach critical mass in the new car market. He says Waze has “full support [from Google] to take the time we need to make this work.”
Riders who use the Waze carpool app typically help share the cost of gasoline, which is calculated at the federal mileage rate of $0.54 per mile. For the time being, Waze takes no part of the payment for itself, but will eventually “when the quality of the service is high enough to warrant this,” Fried says. In a trial in Israel previously, Waze kept 15% of the payment.
By contrast, Uber now gloms on to 80% of the fare, leaving just 20% for its drivers to pay their own gas, loan payments, taxes, and insurance, and maybe have a little left over at the end of the day for themselves. The Waze app will also be introduced in Brazil by the end of the year.