Following the announcement a few weeks ago, Google’s Waze has gone ahead with the nearly silent rollout of their ride sharing pilot, RideWith. The service is built on the Waze app to connect drivers with potential passengers who can “pitch in” for the daily commute. The pilot was carried out exclusively in Israel and we were invited to take part. Here are a few of our screenshots and thoughts from the experiment.
From the passenger’s perspective: a cab ride for the price of a bus ticket
To get started, a prospective passenger needs to download the RideWith app and sign up. The user needs to fill out their personal and of course payment details that will be used to chip in for the ride.
In ordering a ride, the passenger enters their desired destination as well as pick up time, and the app will search for a matching driver. As soon as a match is found, RideWith will pull up the driver’s details, their mapped route, the expected travel time, and finally the amount to be paid for the ride. If the passenger decides to take the offer, they can make the order through the app, which will simultaneously notify the driver. Just as with services like Gett and Uber, the passenger can open the app at anytime and view a map showing the location of the vehicle.
The price of the ride that the passenger agrees to chip in for is based on a number of important factors. Waze’s algorithm takes into account considerations such as the distance to be traveled, time of day, wear and tear of the vehicle, and of course the cost of gas to calculate a “fair” price. Should both the passenger and driver decide, they have the option to set a lower price through the app, which includes Waze’s cut for the service. For now, most of those who have signed up to RideWith are being placed on waiting lists as Waze slowly opens up to allow more people to use the app.
From the driver’s perspective: The app already knows exactly where you live, work, and how you get there
How does the app look from behind the wheel? Immediately after signing up for the pilot, Waze began requesting approval for a whole stack of authorizations. The company, which is a part of Google, uses their parent company’s location service. Just in case readers have forgotten, Google keeps pretty good track of where we are at all times. Thus Waze knows exactly where we live and work, as well as our preferred routes for getting between the two. Moreover, they know precisely the time that we leave these locations, even if we have not activated the app on our devices. So even if the driver lives in Netanya and works in Ramat HaChayal, the app can match them with a passenger that lives in Ra’anana since it already knows that they will pass through there on their way to work.
After we finished entering our personal and vehicle details (so that passengers can recognize us) and we gave approval to Google to show our particulars to other potential users, we were then asked to include our work emails. This was described by the app as an additional “mutual trust building” measure since it was not required as a part of the signing up process.
We were then asked to include our bank account information. The app supports all Israeli banks and payment transactions from the app are set to be carried out in the following month after at least 100₪ have been earned.
Right after we completed this section, we received a message saying that the app was ready and available. A new RideWith icon then appeared on the app’s menu screen where we could access the special features.
When a match is made with a passenger, a notification is received on the device with their details, the route, suggested price, and hours. When the driver approves the offer, the app will contact the passenger and update the new course of navigation for the trip.
Opinion: uberX on a small flame
It seems sometimes that uber has a tendency to act like a bull in a china shop. They enter situations with a ton of bluster and has no qualms about taking on the local taxi drivers and state regulators as they attempt to conquer the community’s transportation market. It is worth considering that waiting behind this modest pilot program is Google’s lion of a response to the upstart startup.
It is clear to see how Google is tip toeing around now, so as not to broadcast a clear and present threat to the local cabbies, and avoid confrontations with regulators who in turn could cause a legal fuss for their users. Google is calling this a “ride sharing service”, saying that it is a “green and social way to get to work”. They have even gone so far as to euphamize the payment system, saying that users are “pitching in”, just like people have done for years with a few bucks for gas when their friend gives them a ride.
Interestingly, Google has taken a number of steps to limit the apps use. In particular, they do not want drivers turning their service into a source of income. Their first measure to prevent this is the inability to raise the fee for rides, which is set within the app. Secondly, pick ups and drop offs of passengers are only allowed in the areas where the driver lives and works. This way, they are not permitted to pick up possible fares in other parts of town. Finally, drivers are only allowed to take a maximum of two passengers per day, making this a very unprofitable option for anyone considering a new career as an unregulated taxi driver.
While not disrespecting the value of these restrictions, it is worth noting that they can be easily removed by tweaking a line of code. In the meantime, Google can build their entire platform under everyone’s radar, scale it up, and when they think they have reached the right moment, activate the service as a fully commercialized enterprise.
Translated by Gabriel Avner