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Google says there's no Waze forward, carpool app axed

Navigation tool still on the road ... for now

Google is shutting down its Waze carpooling service apparently due to poor demand from workers commuting into the office – although road traffic has bounced back to levels from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Waze, which began as a navigation map service, was acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $966 million. The biz launched a carpooling service in 2016, starting in the Bay Area in the US and expanding into Brazil, Mexico, and Israel. 

Drivers could pick up riders heading to the same destination and charge a small fee, all managed via the app. Waze doesn't include any service fees and doesn't make any money off the ride, making it cheaper than other services, such as Uber and Lyft. Drivers were also limited to offering two trips on Waze a day. Now after six years, Waze Carpool is shutting down, The Verge first reported

A spokesperson from Waze blamed the closure due to a change in driving patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and told The Register in a statement: "As the world continues to recover from COVID-19, people are driving more than ever before, and we are seeing higher than pre-COVID miles/[kilometers] on the road. In the US this is as much as 5-15 [per cent] higher than before the pandemic depending on the state, so the change is meaningful.

"Another key trend we see is that driving behaviors on the roads have changed: while Waze was predominantly a commuting app pre-COVID, today the proportion of errands & travel drives have surpassed commutes."

The number of people commuting dropped during COVID-19 as workers deemed non-essential toiled from home, or were laid off or furloughed. Although staff are returning to the office, depending on where you are, plenty are not going in five days a week like before. Some companies have embraced remote work, and are letting staff work from home permanently, which hurt Waze's potential market. 

"We want to continue to make a real-world impact by doubling down on helping cities address mobility problems such as congestion, safety, sustainability and cost. In order for us to achieve this we will be retiring the Waze Carpool service to focus the company's efforts on better supporting drivers on the road today. We are proud of what we accomplished through Waze Carpool, and are grateful to the Carpool community for sharing drives and working together to take cars off the road," the representative added.

Waze said it has grown to 150 million monthly active users and said it has one of the most robust real-time traffic data sets across multiple cities. The Waze app will be available for drivers for navigation purposes, and only the carpool feature is being discontinued. ®

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