Google (News - Alert) launched its crack at a ride-sharing service in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv Monday, aiming at supplementing traditional taxi services and transportation start-ups like Uber and Lyft. The service is hosted on the Waze app, the crowd-source traffic and navigation application that Google purchased in 2013, or can be used through a standalone app called RideWith for those who do not use Waze.
The new app allows passengers looking for a ride to be matched with commuters who are going to be driving along the same route. Passengers then pay for a share of the gasoline as well as a surcharge for general wear and tear on the car. Google receives a small percentage as well, the source of its profits. Much like Uber, payments are exchanged through credit or debit cards linked to the app.
This venture is not without controversy: much like Uber last year, there has been some discussion about how much drivers using Google’s service can be regulated. In order to attempt to circumvent this, Google has limited the service so as to only connect passengers with drivers who are already on the route they use to travel. In other words, the driver cannot briefly function as a taxi driver, and can only pick up two passengers per day.
Google does not see this new service as a direct competitor to Uber. A spokesman was quoted as saying “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 hour.” However, if successful, RideWith will likely pull at least some consumers away from Uber, as those who used to take taxis or Uber cars home from work may look to share a ride instead.
If RideWith is able to succeed in Tel Aviv, it could spread to other major cities and become the next big thing in ride sharing and transportation services. It can allow drivers and carless commuters to work together and carpool where they need to go. Hopefully, this will lead to fewer cars on the road and thus fewer emissions.