Waze Carpool expands into all California cities starting next week

Waze, the car navigation app owned by Google, announced on Wednesday it will expand its carpooling services to all California cities starting June 6.

After experimenting for more than a year in northern California and Israel, Waze’s carpool expansion into cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego signal the first move in a long-anticipated spread across the United States. Waze CEO Noam Bardin hinted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company hopes to expand to more U.S. cities and into Latin American markets.

Waze also confirmed its intention to expand into Brazil by the end of this year.

“Following thriving public pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Monterey and across Israel, the expansion is a sign of the company’s deepening commitment to its Carpool platform,” said Waze in a statement. “The move is a natural one for Waze, a community-first organization on a mission to impact global mobility and congestion.”

Through a separate carpool app or its main app, a user can find a driver commuting back home or to work in the same general direction. The user pays the driver a fee, usually calculated enough to cover for gas and other maintenance needs. The fees are never greater than 54 cents per mile, the federal mileage rate.

As a result, ride shares on Waze Carpool are often considerably cheaper than competitors such as uberPOOL and Lyft Line. But there are caveats: Waze Carpool rides need to be reserved hours in advance and can be used up to only twice per day.

The expansion comes only after months of refinement through customer feedback, said Waze Carpool general manager Josh Fried. One such improvement is the the ability for drivers to pick up to two passengers in order to allow drivers to get on the I-80 carpool lane on the Bay Bridge.

Fried said the feedback has been largely supportive. He spoke at a town hall meetup in March in which more than 80 people showed up to share their Waze Carpool experience.

“We had a woman who met her boyfriend through Waze Carpool,” said Fried. “It makes the world a smaller place. I think when people get themselves into the carpool mindset, they open themselves to the world.”

Despite the relative success of Waze Carpool in the Bay Area, Los Angeles may be a different beast, according to Fried. With a far more car-centric culture and lifestyle in a much larger city, the expansion into southern California may be Waze Carpool’s biggest test so far.

“When we entered the Bay Area and Israel, we went in quietly and relied on mouth of word to spread our app,” said Fried. “This is really our attempt to go into a new market and announce that we are here.”

Photo: A screenshot from Waze. Waze Carpool is expanding to all California cities after months of trial in the Bay Area, Monterey and Sacramento. (Courtesy Waze)


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