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Transportation

Can Google Make Carpooling Cool?

The tech titan will be defying recent transportation trends as it rolls out its own ride-sharing service.
A World War II-era poster by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) promotes carpooling.
A World War II-era poster by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) promotes carpooling.American Legion National Headquarters

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Google would be officially joining the ride-sharing fray in the U.S. with a pilot program under its Waze navigation app. The program, which will initially only be available in the San Francisco area, aims to swiftly match drivers and riders heading in the same direction to create a seamless, Uber-like ride-hailing experience. The difference? It will be far cheaper and aimed at commuters rather than barhopping Millennials: Drivers get a small reimbursement of up to 54 cents per mile to cover gas and expenses (that’s the maximum you can deduct for business use of a car, per the IRS), and riders are limited to two trips a day, between work and home.

Waze Carpool, as the program is called, is being hyped as an early blow in the coming slugfest between Google and Uber, two once-friendly tech giants who are battling over who gets to drive people around. And it may well be: Uber’s recent announcement of a pilot program for autonomous cars in Pittsburgh certainly signaled the company’s intentions to get all up in Google’s self-driving grille. But it also represents a new chapter in an older, sadder narrative: the long decline of carpooling in America.