aNewDomain — Google has launched a pilot program of a new carpooling pilot service in Tel Aviv, Israel. Called RideWith, it’s Google’s entry into the fast moving ride-sharing segment created and now dominated by Uber. But with a twist.
The new ride-sharing service, say Google execs, is available in two ways: through Waze, the navigation app Google bought for $1B last year, and through another app, also called RideWith, that’s targeting non-Waze users. Essentially, it helps anyone looking for a ride to work or from work to dynamically hook up with drivers who also are going the same way.
In this way, RideWith is more like hitchhiking than grabbing a cab, one respect in which it differs from services like Uber or Lyft.
It is different in another respect, too, says Google. It limits the money drivers can make from the service because, at least initially, its just a twice a day commute set up. Drivers also are permitted only to pick up passengers when they leave their own homes and go to work, not vice versa, though it’s unclear how Google will police that. All these limitations seem intended to keep RideWith out of regulators’ crosshairs.
So how does Google make money on this? It takes a cut from what passengers pay, based on the cost of gas, car wear and tear and so on. Check out a screenshot of the app that ran on Phandroid earlier today. The pilot will focus only on commuters, so that Google doesn’t clash with regulators and taxi services, they way Uber has.
In an email to a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, one Google exec pointedly remarked that Google isn’t going after Uber here. He wrote:
“RideWith is an experiment in the Tel Aviv area that doesn’t compete with Uber: it’s a platform built to enable local drivers to help each other during busy commute hours.”
Waze Plus Google Equals RideWith
Google’s Waze mapping was founded in Israel, and its technology knows the streets well enough to test out the RideWith service, which will be Android based. So it makes sense the Google RideWith pilot is launching there.
The first stories about Google RideWith appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Haaeretz, which reported:
“RideWith will link up passengers who want to get to their workplaces with drivers making a similar trip. The number of trips drivers are able to make is limited to two a day, and only from their home neighborhoods to their workplaces. The passenger will pay the driver a nominal fare for the trip, as determined by the distance, and the service is built in such a way that drivers will not be able to transform it into a business, but will only receive compensation for the time and the gas they use to provide transportation for an additional passenger in their car.”
Two years ago, when Google purchased Waze, it was clear Google had its sights on the transportation industry.
For now, this means using the tech to pilot a person-to-person commuter application, but in the future it could mean matching driverless cars with passengers. A perfect fit for the autonymous Google Car the search giant has so publicly been testing.
As reported in February, 2015, Uber has announced it intentions to branch out in somewhat similar ways:
Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are announcing today a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus … The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.”
Undoubtedly, a car-sharing service like the one Google describes for RideShare should appeal to companies in large cities, especially those who incentivize employees to share rides and cut down on gas. If customers were to get on board a service like RideWith, Google might very well have something that isn’t just environmentally helpful, but competitively disruptive.
For aNewDomain, I’m David Michaelis.
Images in order: Casual carpool by Sharon Hahn Darlin via Flickr; Google Self-Driving Car by smoothgroover22 via Flickr; Uber Sidecar Lyft by TheTruthAbout via Flickr