Navigation app Waze just rolled out a new feature in Washington State: Waze Carpool, which matches single-occupancy-vehicle commuters with people who need a ride to work.
This basic concept might sound familiar. But unlike a ride-hailing app like Lyft or Uber—drivers earn money for rides, riders pay—it’s more like actual ride-sharing, encouraging people to carpool instead of driving a single-occupancy vehicle. Drivers pick people up along their daily commutes instead of as part of their job descriptions.
Users log onto the service, then fill out their home and work addresses. Then, both drivers and riders can pick their carpool buddies based on profiles, mutual friends (like Tinder), and star ratings.
Each passenger chips in gas money (up to $15, depending on the length of the trip), and Waze navigates the driver through a carpool-optimized route with its HOV functionality.
As with any app that encourages possible strangers to get into a vehicle together, safety is a clear concern—something that a spokesperson for Waze said the app addresses by “[allowing] drivers and passengers the freedom to choose their carpool buddy.”
Profiles not only include mutual friends, but workplaces—verified with company email addresses—so users can search for only co-workers that need a ride.
Users can also filter by gender, although the app only offers “male” and “female” options, which won’t be much help to those who are neither. When we asked if there are any plans to change this, a spokesperson responded, “This is a people-first service and the elements of choice and customization are mission-critical.” (So, maybe.)
Later, a spokesperson clarified that Waze will import gender options from Facebook and Google, which have far more variety (more than 70 and more than 50, respectively).
Passengers and drivers can communicate beforehand using an in-app chat or call each other with a masked phone number.
Waze’s carpool service still costs more and lacks the capacity as the ultimate rideshare: the bus. But it’s certainly a solution for someone who wants the convenience of a car, but doesn’t want the impact of a single-occupancy vehicle.
Jonathan Hopkins, executive director of public-private partnership Commute Seattle, praised the service as a “a fast, convenient and low-cost option for people who currently drive alone.”
“We applaud all efforts to help people travel smarter and keep Seattle moving,” said Hopkins.
Those who want to start driving using the app can do so in the existing Waze app, available on iOS and Android. People who want a ride have to download a new app, Waze Carpool, also available on iOS and Android.
This article has been updated to add more information about gender options.
- Waze Carpool [Waze]