Google's complicated relationship with taxi-hailing app Uber got even more complex over the weekend as it emerged the Mountain View based search giant will launch a pilot project of its carpooling app RideWith, which allows users to share rides to work and back. The ride sharing will also be supported through the Waze app, which Google acquired in 2013. This puts Google squarely in competition with Uber, which is both an investment and customer of its Google Maps product.
The initial pilot will be conducted in Israel and based on the results pushed out to other cities in other countries. Waze, which gathers user generated traffic information, is based out of Israel.
RideWith is a concept that seems designed to mitigate some of the fierce criticism Uber generates. It will only connect passengers who want to get to their workplaces with drivers making a similar trip. Drivers will only be able to make two trips per day, and the software will ensure they only travel from their home neighborhoods to their workplaces.
There also won't be a ton of money changing hands as a passenger will pay the driver only a nominal fare for the trip, as determined by the distance, preventing users from transforming it into a business.
Uber faces regulatory hurdles around the issue of drivers being employed yet not being licensed by the relevant taxi authorities or insurance companies.
Ridewith will be launched in Herzliya, Tel Aviv and Ra’anana which are where many of the country's technology workers live and are employed. Students at Tel Aviv University will also be eligible to use the eco-friendly service. Google, as they typically do, will carefully analyze the data and then expand the offering to other cities around the country.
It's likely Google already has plenty of data about ride sharing, as it owns five percent of rival Uber and also powers its mapping functions with its Google Maps products. This gives the company unprecedented insight into ride sharing patterns and which markets are attractive.
It will no doubt add considerable strain to the already tense relationship and perhaps push Uber to move away from Google Maps, which it has reportedly been trying to do for some time.