Waze, an Israel-based mapping company, announced the launching of a new carpooling service. Since Google acquired the startup in 2013, it now has a looming presence in the Uber-dominated space.
“We are conducting a small, private beta test in Tel Aviv for a carpool concept,” said Julie Mossler, a spokesperson for Waze. “Waze regularly experiments with new ideas in our backyard, and we have nothing specific to announce at this time.”
The Taxi Driver-approved RideWith App
The app’s service model is not as aggressive as Uber’s approach to ride-sharing. For now, it is limited to two transactions per day. Marketing for the platform suggests that the service can be used to hitch a casual ride to work with people who are going in the same direction. It doesn’t seem to be a viable alternative for taking a cab or public transportation at this time.
From another perspective, the current limitations of the RideWith app could help the business avoid negative publicity and conflict with professional taxi drivers. The carpooling service is not Waze’s core product. While the platform will likely leverage some of the same satellite-mapping technology, the company seems to be more interested in differentiating itself from the sea of ride-sharing apps out in the market today.
Google’s Ground-breaking Investment
Uber’s success is possibly Google’s success until the two officially part ways. Through its venture capital arm, Google Ventures, the tech giant pumped a whopping $258 million into the business. At the time of the agreement, the amount was 86 percent of the company’s $300 million annual fund for investments.
Other notable investors in Uber include the following firms: Goldman Sachs, Baidu, Qatar Investment Authority and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Even Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, has a stake in the business.
Self-driving Vehicles That Offer Ride-sharing Services
Google has long-term plans in the ride-sharing industry. The ultimate goal is to take an automated car, which it is already has, and combine it with on-demand ride services.
“We’re thinking a lot about how in the long-term, this might become useful in people’s lives, and there are a lot of ways we can imagine this going,” said Chris Urmson, a Google executive. “One is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.”
The global tech brand is not keeping its ambitions a secret either. David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and SVP of corporate development, has expressed the possibility of Google dipping into the ride-sharing sector. What’s even more controversial is Drummond’s commanding role in Uber. He is currently serving on the company’s board of directors and has been doing so since 2013.
Not to be outdone, Uber is also in the process of developing its own self-driving cars.
They don’t appear to be as polished as Google’s koala vehicles, but that could all change very quickly. The business has assembled a squad of top-level talent from Carnegie Mellon’s robotics division and is already in the early stages of testing.