Google is running its own ride-sharing service in San Francisco, The Wall Street Journal reports. The move would put Google in direct, immediate competition with Uber, which helps explain even further the recent departure of Alphabet executive David Drummond from Uber’s board. Google’s new offering piloted in May, according to the WSJ, and uses the Google-owned Waze app to connect commuters for shared carpooling.
The plan is apparently to open up said program to all San Francisco residents starting this fall, with an eye toward expanding it further provided that works out. And unlike Uber, this is more of a matchmaking service, which brings together riders with drivers headed in the same direction. Fees are going to be low, too — the report says Google is intentionally keeping them low to keep this a peer-to-peer co-driving arrangement, rather than something that professional drivers will want to use in a dedicated capacity, like Uber and Lyft.
Waze’s operational model to date has focused on connecting drivers via crowdsourced navigation information. Users report things like accidents, roadside obstacles, storms and traffic jams, and these are immediately available to other drivers. Shortly after Google acquired Waze in 2013, it started using its crowdsourced navigation data in the primary Google Maps app, as well.
While the pilot originally limited ridership to around 25,000 SF-based employees of large tech companies, including Google, with a maximum of two rides a day, the new expansion will open up access to “anyone with the Waze app,” according to the WSJ, on both the rider and driver side of the equation.
While the driver model employed by both Uber and Google is different, the ultimate aim of both might be the same: driverless taxis. Google is said to be considering including its driverless cars in a ride-sharing model, the WSJ notes, and recent business unit changes suggest it is thinking more seriously about how best to bring its driverless vehicles to market.
At one time, Google and Uber seemed to have a very close relationship, which included a sizeable investment from Google in the on-demand ride company, and an arrangement that brought Uber inside the official Google Maps app as an additional mode of transportation option.
Lately, though, the relationship has changed. I’ve heard from a very reliable source that internally, Uber is getting increasingly serious about reducing its dependence on Google’s mapping products entirely, which is in line with what the Financial Times reported in late July.
We reached out to Google for more information, but they did not immediately respond to our request.