Google to bring Waze ridesharing San Francisco-wide, may set stage for driverless service

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Google is reportedly taking its first real steps into ridesharing via its Waze navigation app, entering into competition with Uber and Lyft, and potentially setting up a tougher market if and when Apple launches its self-driving car.

This fall, Google is planning to open up a current pilot program to all San Francisco Waze users, a source informed the Wall Street Journal. The pilot was launched in May, and allows people at specific companies near its headquarters to hitch a ride with another Waze user.

Unlike Uber, Google isn't expecting people to become full-time Waze drivers, according to the Journal. Passengers in the pilot program are charged just 54 cents per mile, and at the moment the company itself doesn't take a cut. Instead the idea is that drivers can earn a little extra by picking up people headed in the same direction — a full-fledged Waze carpooling service is already operational in Israel.

Google is considering testing self-driving cars in a ridesharing service later on, other sources told the Journal, adding that executives see this as a potential business model for its technology. In the short-term, the company is said to be considering different rates in Israel and San Francisco, which might allow it to take a share.

It isn't planning to vet drivers like its competitors however, hoping instead that bad reviews will be enough to filter people out.

Waze could pose a threat to services like Uber and Lyft, which are more expensive since they're meant to be profitable and use full-time drivers. Uber in particular has already been distancing itself from Google, deploying its own self-driving cars and working on ditching Google Maps data.

Recently David Drummond — an executive with Google parent company Alphabet — stepped down from Uber's board to avoid potential conflicts of interest. The situation is a far cry from 2013, when Google invested $258 million into Uber.

Apple is expected to launch its first car in 2021. It's unknown if the vehicle will be sold to consumers, used in a ridesharing service, or both, as Tesla is intending.


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