Google’s Waze is shutting down its car-sharing service

Google-owned navigation service Waze is shutting down its six-year-old car-sharing service, citing changing commuting patterns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting in September, the company will begin the process of winding down its car-sharing service, which has been available in the US, Brazil and Israel. Waze said it will explore other ways it can help serve the 150 million customers worldwide who use its navigation app.

The company said in a statement submitted to the edge. “This means we have an opportunity to find more impactful ways to bring together a global community to share real-time insights and help each other beat smart traffic — which is what has always made Waze truly special.

Waze Carpool was first launched in the Gulf region in 2016, and eventually expanded to include all 50 states in the US plus Brazil and Waze’s home country, Israel. The service was different from the car-sharing services offered by Uber and Lyft in that it allowed non-professional drivers to offer rides to people traveling on a similar route for a small fee. In 2018, the company launched its standalone carpool app.

The motivation was, at least originally, to get more people to participate in rides in order to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road. Waze said it will use “super-steering technology” to help passengers fill empty seats in their cars, and in the process, hopefully reduce the number of cars on the road.

Waze insisted he was not in the business of making money. However, the company relied on partnerships with large employers who could then encourage workers to use the service. At one point, Waze sent teams of employees to WeWork locations carrying tacos and other free goodies to convince young professionals to download the app.

Shared car use has been in decline over the past several decades. In the 1970s, in the midst of the gas crisis, about 20 percent of Americans shared their trips on their way to work. Now, that number is about 9 percent. Both Uber and Lyft have tried to get their customers to ride together, with varying degrees of success.

But if shared car use has begun to regain some modest momentum, COVID has essentially stopped it in its tracks. Both Uber and Lyft shut down carpooling services in the early months of the pandemic. Now, with the number of cases declining and vaccines becoming more widely available, carpooling is making a comeback — mostly as a response to higher fare prices.

Waze has relied on a steady stream of people coming into the office every day, and that has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. According to a recent survey, 35 percent said they could work from home full time. Another 23 percent can work from home between one and four days a week.

Waze said it will continue to work with cities on their mobility challenges. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with Waze Carpool, and we’re grateful to the Carpool community for sharing the drives and working together to get cars off the road,” the company added.

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