Waze brings its carpooling service to the Bay Area

Google-owned navigation app Waze is expanding its ride-sharing ambitions with the launch of a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay area which will allow employees of select companies to carpool to and from work via Waze’s carpooling service. This program is similar to the service Waze began testing last year in Tel Aviv, Israel, via an app called “RideWith.”

The app was rebranded from RideWith to Waze Rider in the beginning of this year, and focuses on workplace commutes.

The carpooling service takes advantage of Waze’s navigation system to learn the routes drivers most frequently take to work, then matches those people up with others looking for a ride in the same direction. The app, now live to U.S. commuters in the Bay Area, works the same way.

To use the app, commuters look for the closest driver already planning a drive on their route, then schedule a ride. Drivers, meanwhile, receive ride requests in Waze, and then can choose to accept the request or decline. The service matches riders and drivers with nearly identical commutes based on their home and work addresses, which are verified by Waze and set in advance through Waze Carpool.

The app is also differentiated from businesses like Uber and Lyft, as drivers are not earning salaries. Instead, drivers are only paid a small fee to cover their gas which is suggested by the app to the commuters. This fee is the standard rate the IRS suggests – 54 cents per mile.

Ride payments are transferred from riders to drivers automatically through the app. Right now, Wze is not taking a cut of that transaction.

This business model makes it more of a “help each other out” kind of offering – drivers get some gas money, and riders can save on their commuting costs.

While that differentiates it from the likes of Uber and Lyft, it could still compete in terms of stealing away customers from those services and others, by targeting commuters in search of more affordable alternatives.

The Waze Carpool service is going live in the Bay Area, but it’s not broadly available. However, it is supporting the rides of 25,000 employees, including those from UCSF, Adobe and Walmart Global eCommerce, according to SFGate.

Instead, the service is only offered to a select group of employers and their commuters on an invite-only basis, Waze’s website explains. Riders whose employers are participating in the pilot program can download the Waze Rider app and register using their corporate email. Others can sign up to be emailed when the program expands.

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