Google’s Waze expands carpooling service throughout US

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<pGoogle will begin offering its pay-to-carpool service throughout the U.S., an effort to reduce the commute-time congestion that its popular Waze navigation app is designed to avoid.

<pThe expansion announced Wednesday builds upon a carpooling system that Waze began testing two years ago in northern California and IsraelGoogle to mount a challenge to the two top ride-hailing services, UberLyft.

<pBut Waze founder and CEO Noam Bardin rejected that notion in an interview with The Associated Press, insisting that the carpooling service is purely an attempt to ease traffic congestion.

<p"We don't want to be a professional driving network," Bardin said. "We see ride sharing as something that needs to become part of the daily commute. If we can't get people out of their cars, it won't be solving anything."

<pGartner analyst Mike Ramsey also sees Waze's service as a bigger threat to other carpooling apps such as Scoop and Carpool Buddy than to Uber and Lyft. "Carpooling is a much different animal," he said.

<pIt's a form of transportation<pWaze's app still sets a price for each carpooling trip and transfers payments without charging a commission. That's something Waze can afford to do because Google makes so much money from selling digital ads on Waze and its many other services.

<pThe carpooling fees are supposed to be similar to what it would cost to take a train or type of public transportation to work, Bardin said. Drivers and riders can agree to adjust the price upward or downward, but the fees can never exceed the rate the Internal Revenue Service allows for business-related mileage — currently 54.5 cents per mile.

<pEven though Waze's carpooling service doesn't appear to be driven by profit motive, Ramsey isn't convinced that will always be the case. "I do think Google is realizing that it can't just keep making all its money from selling ads," he said.