Google debuts carpooling service in Israel

Google has launched a pilot carpooling service in Israel, Haaretz reported on Monday.

It marks the company’s entry into an on-demand transportation market dominated by Uber and a burgeoning regulatory maze.

{mosads}Users in Tel Aviv will now be able to open an app called RideWith and connect with a driver who uses Waze, the navigation app Google bought in 2013. The passenger will enter their home and work addresses, as well as the time they intend to leave.

The apps will then match a passenger with a commuter who can pick them up along their normal route.

The service, which will be available in two other cities besides Tel Aviv, is Google’s first foray into ride sharing. Uber is the most prominent player in the field — and is raising money at a $50 billion valuation despite recent questions about its cash flow.

But the rise of companies in the on-demand economy — which includes services like Airbnb as well as transportation companies like Uber — is raising new regulatory questions. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop to investigate the on-demand economy.

Many have also questioned whether companies like Uber should be classifying their drivers as full employees, rather than independent contractors who are not entitled to benefits like social security and other protections.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has called for lawmakers to look into how to construct a safety net for workers at the companies buthas yet to introduce legislation on the topic.

It appears that Google may be looking to avoid, at least for now, the debate over the status of ride sharing drivers by blocking their workers from turning it into a significant personal revenue stream.

Drivers in the program will only be allowed to provide two rides a day. They can be paid for gas and the cost of maintaining the car, but the program will not operate on a fare system that would put it in closer competition with taxis.

Google’s service will reportedly be rolled out to other cities with modifications based on data gathered in the Israeli pilot program.

Tags Google Mark Warner on-demand economy Uber

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