Waze: Google launches Uber rival that gets passengers to pay for your commute
Google has launched a carpooling service in its maps app Waze in a move that puts the search giant in direct competition with Uber.
Designed "to connect Waze users that need a ride with Waze users headed in the same direction", the new carpooling feature is part of a separate app called Waze Carpool.
Unlike Uber, the carpooling service limits drivers to two rides a day and designates that journeys won't involve multiple stops. It also only requires riders to reimburse drivers a minimal amount for the cost of fuel and wear and tear on the car.
Following a successful trial in Tel Aviv of an app called RideWith, Waze Carpool is now being tested in San Francisco's Bay Area.
The US pilot is currently only open to a "select group of employers and their commuters" that have been invited by Waze to test the service.
It may not be as easy to get drivers to sign up to Waze Carpool as it is for Uber, as it doesn't allow them to profit from the service.
"Waze Carpool focuses on covering costs, not generating an income," said Waze.
"Waze Carpool makes it easy to help a neighbour or colleague in your area. Detours are minimal so your drive to work is almost the same, you get to ride in the carpool lane, and the rider you pick up helps cover your commuter costs - so why not?"
The maps company also bills the app as "a greener and more social way to get to work".
If the trials are successful, Waze Carpool could prove a powerful competitor to UberPool.
The service is also similar to the one provided by $1.2 billion French startup Blablacar which operates a ride-sharing service across 22 countries including the UK, France, India, Mexico, Brazil and several other European countries.
The company has raised more than $300m and has 30m registered users, making it four or five times larger than the Eurostar. It takes a 12 per cent commission on every journey, meaning it has healthy revenues in the tens of millions.
Notably, the business model is very similar to Waze Carpool: drivers don't make money, but cover their costs by giving someone a ride in the same direction.
This isn't the first mention of Google getting into the on-demand transport business: earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that the search engine giant is preparing to offer a ride-hailing service alongside its driverless car project.
In its largest deal to date, Google Ventures, the company's venture capital arm, invested $258 million (£178 mn) in now-rival Uber back in 2013.