Google is taking a first, tentative step into the ride-sharing industry and launching a pilot carpooling service for commuters in Israel, according to multiple reports. The project was developed by the team behind the traffic and mapping app Waze, which Google bought in 2013 for more than $1 billion. According to a report from Israel's Haaretz, Waze will provide the mapping and traffic data, while actual rides will be hailed with a new app called RideWith.
The service will connect passengers with nearby drivers headed to and from similar locations. However, unlike Uber, drivers will not be able to make a living from RideWith: they'll be limited to offering two rides a day, and will receive only a small payment from passengers based on distance traveled and a nominal car maintenance fee. Each journey can be paid for via the app with Google collecting 15 percent of the fee, reports Haaretz.
A carpooling service, not a taxi replacement
This focus on carpooling rather than a taxi replacement will presumably help Google and Waze avoid some of the regulatory problems that have plagued companies like Uber. Earlier this month, for example, Uber was forced to suspend its UberPop service in France (which uses non-professional drivers) after a nationwide strike from taxi drivers.
Google's carpooling service is set to launch in three cities initially — Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, and Herzliya — with the company reportedly planning to expand the pilot to other parts of Israel if initial tests are a success. According to Reuters, the RideWith app will use data from Waze to learn the routes drivers take to work and then match them with passengers going in the same direction. A spokesperson for Waze told the news agency: "We're conducting a small, private beta test in the greater Tel Aviv area for a carpool concept, but we have nothing further to announce at this time."