When ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber first appeared, they were called “ride-sharing” services, since people didn’t really know what else to call peer-to-peer unlicensed taxi services. By contrast, the carpooling feature that’s part of Google-owned map and traffic app Waze is more like organized hitchhiking, and now it’s going statewide in California.
After tests in the San Francisco Bay area and cities in Waze’s home country of Israel, the app is launching statewide in California, including the traffic-snarled Los Angeles area. Users will have to download a separate app, which is available for iOS and Android, to request a ride.
The company frames the carpooling service as another front in its fight against traffic, which also includes real-time routing to alternate routes based on users’ reports of heavy traffic, road closures, crashes, and other obstacles.
“No longer will Californians be held captive by their horrific commute,” Waze declared on its official blog. “Join us in working together to fight daily traffic, improve our commute, help protect the environment, and save a little money.”
Both of the major ride-hailing apps have carpool-like services, called UberPool and Lyft Line, but they’re more like sharing a taxi with strangers when you’re heading in the same direction.
While Waze’s carpooling service does charge passengers some money that goes to the driver, it’s not enough to compensate the driver for chauffeuring someone. It’s more like sharing gas and tolls with someone who gives you a ride home from college.
The Los Angeles Times reports that drivers don’t undergo any kind of background checks before the app connects them with strangers to haul around, and they also aren’t required to have commercial car insurance. The service doesn’t supply the kind of liability insurance that the ride-hailing app covers drivers with, either.
Waze doesn’t yet charge a commission on the money paid to drivers, but plans to do so in the future.