If the enemy of your enemy is your friend, Uber and Lyft may finally be on the same side as they prepare to defend themselves from Google. That’s right — the ridesharing turf war is about to get a lot more intense as Google introduces a new service “to help San Francisco commuters join carpools,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The service will leverage Google-owned Waze and allow individuals to connect with other commuters, with the ultimate intention of providing a 21st-century carpooling method for the masses.
The new Waze-based service has been in a pilot phase for a while now, and although it will go head to head with Uber and Lyft, the models are actually quite different. Rather than offering a taxi service, Google will instead connect riders with drivers who are already going to the same or similar places. The Journal reports that Google wants to “make fares low enough to discourage drivers from operating as taxi drivers.” Currently, the Waze pilot program has riders paying 54 cents every mile, which is cheaper than most Uber and Lyft rides, and Google has yet to take a cut of the money.
It’s an interesting move for Google, which once invested $258 million in Uber — though over the last few years the two companies have become more competitors than compatriots. Especially with both firms focusing significant efforts on developing autonomous car technologies, it comes as little surprise that they’re no longer exactly in each other’s corners.
The Journal’s source noted that Google’s planned expansion of the Waze pilot program would allow anyone in the San Francisco area to become a rider or a driver, and that the company is looking into charging different rates. And while more options generally spell good news for consumers, some experts warn that Google may not be particularly well-versed in the space.
“I don’t think they’ve had any significant experience in a lot of the issues that will surely arise around” starting a ridesharing business, Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd, told the Journal. But there’s no time like the present to start learning.