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Google Waze Enter Ride-Sharing Service

Google began a pilot program around its California headquarters in May that enables several thousand area workers at specific firms to use the Waze app to connect with fellow commuters. It plans to open the program to all San Francisco-area Waze users this fall.

Waze wants to connect riders with drivers who are already headed in the same direction. The company has said it aims to make fares low enough to discourage drivers from operating as taxi drivers. Waze’s current pilot program charges riders at most 54 cents a mile—less than most Uber and Lyft rides—and, for now, Google doesn’t take a fee.

Waze is one part of Google’s larger ambitions to upend transportation. Google is considering testing its driverless cars in a ride-sharing service, people familiar with the matter said, and executives have identified that as a potential business model for its self-driving technology.

Waze’s path in new markets could mimic its development in Israel, where the company was founded, according to the person familiar with the matter. Google started testing a Waze carpool service there last year, and it quickly expanded. The service is now available at all hours in most parts of Israel.

In the San Francisco pilot, any local Waze user can sign up as a driver, but ridership is limited to roughly 25,000 San Francisco-area employees of several large firms, including Google, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. Riders are limited to two rides a day—intended to ferry them to and from work.

In the planned expansion, anyone with the Waze app in the San Francisco area could sign up to be a rider or driver, the person said. Though Google currently doesn’t collect a fee, the company is exploring different rates in Israel and San Francisco, the person familiar with the matter said.

Like Uber and Lyft, Waze’s drivers aren’t employees of the company, the person said. Unlike Uber, Google doesn’t plan to vet drivers for a Waze service, instead relying on user reviews to weed out problem drivers, the person said.

Waze, which operates as its own unit within Google, boasts 65 million active users, many of whom alert other users to police or traffic accidents—a hallmark of the app.

Article published on WSJ

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