The company’s navigation app Waze, which it acquired in 2013 for a reported $1 billion, launched a carpooling pilot program for commuters in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, powered with the help of its Waze community.
The standalone app, called RideWith, connects drivers with passengers who have similar commutes, such as to work or home from the airport. The concept allows drivers and passengers to potentially minimize transportation costs and parking stress, as well as cut down the number of cars on the road.
“We are conducting a small, private beta test in Tel Aviv for a carpool concept,” a company spokesperson told Mashable. “Waze regularly experiments with new ideas in our backyard, and we have nothing specific to announce at this time.”
Israel’s Haaretz reports RideWith will expand throughout the country if the pilot is successful.
Carpooling is already a relatively common practice in Israel. According to Waze, more than 200,000 members in Facebook-based carpool groups exist. In addition, the Israeli government supports carpooling; it has a Gov.PickApp app for government employees to ride to work together.
While there is no fee for a driver to participate, a rider is shown a cost via the app before getting into a vehicle for gas money and car upkeep, based on mileage traveled. Of course, Google gets a percentage of the payment, although how much is unclear.
To avoid regulatory issues, including ones that Uber has faced, drivers won’t be using the service to earn a salary
To avoid regulatory issues, including ones that Uber has faced, drivers won’t be using the service to earn a salary; instead, it will allow them to save a few dollars taking a route they would already be traveling. Drivers can only pick up people who start in the same neighborhood and wish to be dropped off near the same end point. But similar to Uber and other taxi-hailing apps such as Lyft, passengers load their credit card information into RideWith ahead of time and transactions are done directly via the app.
The company warned RideWith’s availability could have a slow start as it gains traction in the area; a certain number of drivers and riders are required for the on-demand model to get off the ground. There are other limitations, too: Google is testing programs in the Gush Dan region of Israel during rush hour times, so you’re out of luck if you’re not in the area or traveling at another time.
Although Google declined to comment on whether the program will roll out to other cities in the future, it’s just one of many getting into the ride-sharing trend. Because it’s not a car-hailing services, RideWith will directly compete with existing carpooling services BlaBlaCar in France and Carpooling.com in Germany.