Uber, Lyft, and now, Google?
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Alphabet-owned Google is set to “take on Uber” with its own ride-sharing service that would charge “far cheaper rates” than competitors.
Earlier this year, Google piloted its service with employees at different companies like Walmart and Adobe from within its Waze navigation app. It now plans to allow any Waze user in San Francisco to use the new feature this fall, The Journal reported.
However, as Recode noted, Google’s service won’t directly compete with Uber — not yet, at least.
The key difference between Google and Uber/Lyft is its focus on carpooling versus an on-demand taxi business. The beta program, which lets drivers pick up passengers heading in the same general direction, charges riders 54 cents a mile — cheaper than Uber and Lyft — and Google does not take a cut. The idea seems to be less about drivers making money, and more on helping people carpool and cover gas costs.
But Google could expand this into something that looks more like Uber or Lyft, and regardless, this would present a cheaper alternative to the existing services.
This is the latest chapter in an ongoing relationship between Uber and Google, which was an early investor in Uber, pouring $258 million into the then-young startup back in 2013. The two companies also partnered on different features, like Google Maps telling you where the closest Uber driver was, for example.
But last week, longtime Alphabet exec David Drummond left Uber’s board over concerns about conflict of interest. That conflict is now becoming more clear with Google set to expand its carpooling service. Uber is also developing its own maps software.
Driverless vehicles are also important to keep in mind as Google, which has recorded more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous driving, and Uber, which is investing heavily in a self-driving fleet, are both committed to the new technology.