[SAN FRANCISCO] Google wants to simplify the process of carpooling with a new application for its Waze traffic service.
The company is testing a new feature in the heavily congested region around Tel Aviv, called RideWith, that helps connect drivers and potential riders during rush hour, according to a blog post on Waze, which Google acquired for about US$1 billion in 2013. The new carpooling app is available in the Google Play Store for users of its Android operating system.
While the feature helps bring users to drivers, restrictions have been set up that make it different from popular ride-sharing services such as those from Uber Technologies and Lyft. That includes limiting the number of rides to two a day and reimbursing drivers only for the cost of gas and the wear and tear on vehicles.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Google is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its driverless car project. Google Ventures, the search giant's venture capital arm, invested US$258 million in Uber in August 2013.
Google is pushing out new services to attract more users as it competes for attention from startups and rivals such as Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. Waze has been integrated into Google's mapping feature to help alert users when there may be a traffic problem on their routes.
"With deep local traffic insight and a large, passionate community, Waze has developed RideWith to serve Israeli commuters at their greatest time of need: rush hour," Waze said in the blog.
"We hope to learn a lot from this pilot and will let you know how it goes."