Google kickstarts ride-sharing service in Bay Area with Waze navigation app

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Search engine giant Google is looking for a slice of the ride-sharing market. According to reports, Google has launched its own ride-sharing service in San Francisco.

Clearly Google’s entry will pose a formidable challenge to industry leaders such as Uber.

The Mountain View-based company will build upon the navigation app Waze which it acquired in 2013. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that Google tested the service through a pilot program in May that allowed thousands of employees to use the Waze app to connect with fellow commuters.

The Waze app is unique in that it does not simply connect commuters to drivers like Uber or Lyft. The community-based traffic app aims at connecting to a driver already heading in the same direction.

The app provides free, crowd-sourced navigation for users. Waze further collects data from drivers, alerting users of areas with road closures or traffic jams.

Waze charges riders at most 54 cents per mile and also limits trips to a maximum of two trips per day.

“Google is moving onto Uber Technologies Inc.’s turf with its own ride-sharing service in San Francisco that would help commuters carpool at far cheaper rates, according to a person familiar with the matter,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Currently, ridership is limited to employees of several large firms, including Google, Wal-Mart and Adobe.

With this, Google is going head-to-head with Uber. Though Uber has long used Google’s mapping software for its ride-hailing service, recently it began developing its own maps.

Last June, it hired Google’s former head of Maps, Brian McClendon to lead the Advanced Technologies Center and develop the company’s mapping and vehicle safety.

Google in fact was among Uber’s early investors when it invested $258 million in 2013. And amid increasing competition between Google and Uber, last week, David Drummond, the chief legal officer at Google stepped down from Uber’s board of directors.

Relations between the two companies strained after Google started working on a ride-hailing service using self-driving cars.

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