Oct 11, 2019

Catching up with Waze's carpool app

Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Waze is best known for its navigation app, which crowdsources traffic information, but a few years ago it ventured into a new line of business when it rolled out a carpooling app. Today, the Google-owned company says its U.S. carpool users complete more than 550,000 rides per month, and will reach the 1 million mark by the end of the year.

What they're saying: "We’re not taking on Uber and Lyft," Waze co-founder and CEO Noam Bardin tells Axios. "We're focused on commutes 20 miles and up." Waze drivers also can't earn money beyond the cost of driving (per IRS guidance of $0.58 per mile).

  • "Our mission has always been about traffic — people have accepted traffic as a necessary evil, but it’s not," he adds.
  • After initial pushback from cities, including attempts to regulate Waze's carpool offering like a ride-hailing app and even some cease-and-desist orders, they've come around. It's now available in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil.

Lesson: "Once [users] take their first ride, they discover that humans are actually interesting," says Bardin. But to do that, they need to first trust the service and other users.

  • The company has also added various filtering options for users, such as only being matched with the same gender or with employees at their company, to help them feel more comfortable carpooling.

Monetizing: Right now, Waze doesn't generate revenue from the carpooling app. But it does plan to eventually take a cut from the ride fares and even possibly integrate some advertising, which it already does in its flagship navigation app.

  • Still, Bardin emphasizes that it's mainly looking to cover its costs.

Yes, but: Speaking of advertising, Bardin also tells Axios that the company doesn't share any carpool user data with its parent company, Google, beyond data about the roads themselves.

  • He also says that the company also declines to share user or trip data with cities —an increasingly controversial topic as a growing number of cities seek to mandate that private transportation companies share data in exchange for the ability to operate. "They want data and they don't know why they want it," said Bardin.

Autonomous vehicles: "They're coming slower than you think," says Bardin.

  • And if autonomous vehicles will be used via ride-hailing services, as some experts envision, Waze says it's helping people get more used to sharing rides, he adds.

Biggest challenge: Density. In order to work, Waze's carpool service needs to have drivers and riders who live sufficiently close to each other and are heading in a similar direction.

Go deeper

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Protesters on Tuesday evening by the metal fence recently erected outside the White House. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday night across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day — prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Protesters were still out en masse for mostly after curfews were in force in cities including Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Portland — where police used pepper spray and flash bangs on a group throwing projectiles at them during an "unlawful assembly," per KATU. Portland police said this group was separate to the thousands of demonstrators who protested peacefully elsewhere in the city.

Primary elections test impact of protests, coronavirus on voting

Election official at a polling place at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the midst of a global pandemic and national protests over the death of George Floyd, eight states and the District of Columbia held primary elections on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, needs to win 425 of the 479 delegates up for grabs in order to officially clinch the nomination. There are a number of key down-ballot races throughout the country as well, including a primary in Iowa that could determine the fate of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Iowa Rep. Steve King defeated in GOP primary

Rep. Steve King. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

State Sen. Randy Feenstra defeated incumbent Rep. Steve King in Tuesday's Republican primary for Iowa's 4th congressional district, according to the Cook Political Report.

Why it matters: King's history of racist remarks has made him one of the most controversial politicians in the country and a pariah within the Republican Party.