Google's Waze Carpool rideshare service for office workers, which launched in limited mode in the San Francisco Bay area last week, actually marks the second major test of the concept for the company in the past year.
Last July, Google quietly began pilot tests of an identical service in Israel called RideWith for linking people looking for rides to work with drivers headed to the same destination. Pilot versions of the service were launched in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Ra'anana. Initial plans had also called for RideWith to be available to students and faculty at Tel Aviv University.
Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper that first reported on the pilot, described RideWith as being developed by Waze, the Israel-based maker of navigation applications acquired by Google in 2013 for about $1 billion.
Google itself has disclosed nothing publicly about RideWith so far. And the company did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the status of the effort or how successful or not it has proven to be over the past year.
While on the surface Waze Carpool sounds like a rival to Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services, it is in fact far more limited in scope, at least for the moment.
Google's plans with Carpool is to give officer workers a way to hitch a ride with other workers headed to and from the same destination, and in return, share the cost of gas for the trip.
Google has touted the service as a way for drivers to save on gas costs on a commute they make daily anyway while helping a fellow commuter out in the process. Google thinks the service will also help reduce traffic congestion when it is at its worst by reducing the number of cars on the road.
Waze Carpool is currently available on an invitation-only basis to employees of a handful of employers in the San Francisco Bay area.
When it does becomes generally available, individuals who want to participate in the carpool service will need to first download a free Waze Rider application available for both iOS and Android devices. The application, according to Google, will coordinate and communicate all the rideshare details between drivers and riders and also automatically handle all payments as well.
The Waze Rider app will match riders and drivers who have nearly identical commutes based on their work and home addresses. The service will take advantage of Waze's mapping capabilities to match carpool partners from the same local community, the company claimed.
Unlike other ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, Waze Carpool limits drivers and riders to using the service just twice a day, one to work and the other to return. The service also matches just one rider per driver either to or from work.
Google insists that the service is not designed to generate income for drivers because at most they will receive just two rides per day. "Waze Carpool focuses on covering costs, not generating an income," according to Google.