Waze Carpool Make $ & Use HOV Lane —Ride at Your Own Risk

Waze, winner of AUTO Connected Car News’ Tech CARS award, recently introduced the carpool feature in which the driver gets reimbursed for expenses in advance. It is all done through either the Waze navigation app or the Waze Carpool app.

Waze first tested the service in the Bay Area and now launched the service in Los Angeles and Southern California as of June 6. As a special offer, first time riders get their first ride free. Riders report the service cheaper than using Uber of Lyft while in some cases there have been glitches.

We at AUTO Connected Car News have some trepidations about the safety of using the carpool app because the drivers are not vetted, their identity, driving records or proof of insurance are not confirmed. Previously, we proved that Waze driving estimates are shorter than actual driving times, while Google Maps estimates are closer times.

Waze claims riders get a comfortable and affordable drive.There are some ground rules for the service. Drivers only get reimbursed the common deductible rate for taxes .54 cents a mile. There is a limit of two passengers per car. Waze connects passengers with drivers in advance. The app finds passengers and drivers near each other and who leave at similar times. The app sets the location of the pickup and drop off points.

Both parties can check the history, profiles, rides and thanks. To converse with the driver, passengers can message in-app before pickup. After initially meeting through the app Waze claims that many drivers and riders often choose to commute together. It seems like a good idea at first.

Waze also claims it is making a green planet by sharing the vehicle and putting three people in a car that would normally be carrying one person, the driver.

It’s tricky to figure out if your car insurance covers the passengers. California Auto insurance usually allows not for profit, share-the-expense carpooling. Since Waze Carpooling is not designed for a profit, just to cover expenses, most drivers should be covered, the Waze website report.

People with wheelchairs or disabilities may or may not be able to find a ride depending upon the type of vehicle available.

Waze doesn’t make much money from the service, but instead makes money from adverting. The data can also be used by municapalities to distill traffic information from the drivers who must use the app.

Waze carpooling is only availabe in Israel and California. Riders use a different app than drivers. Drivers register through the Waze navigation app itself.

There could be some potential privacy issues, the app requires a photograph, email and smartphone ID. Also sometimes riders get a ride to work with no guarantee that they can get ride home. It is very important to request rides in advance. It’s not instant like Uber or Lyft.

Riders have noted that the app may set a ride for pickup in 5 minutes when the passenger needs 15 minutes to get to meeting point. Users have found that messages to potential drivers are often not sent or responded to.

Riders also have reported the pick up time was 10 min earlier than the rider wanted and a few blocks away. Walking a few block wasn’t that big of deal, but it set to pick up on a busy street with no stopping, the passenger would have had to leave before work actually ended.

Sometimes the pickup location does not make sense because the driver had to pass by the work location anyway and there are much safer areas to pull over. Then the app told him to drop the passenger off about eight blocks from her home.

If you aren’t matched with a ride after a few hours when planing for the next day you can’t resubmit the request without cancelling. There isn’t a way to adjust pick up request time without starting over.

When the carpool app launched on June 6 there were a ton of problems with multiple (50 or more push notifications) sent over and over again.

The Android Waze carpool app works with Android 4.0.3 and up while the iPhone app works with or iOS  8.0 or later. The iPhone app is so new there are only 14 reviews.

I just registered to be a driver.The Waze app did not ask for driver’s license, vehicle make or model or even if I have car insurance. I personally would be very cautious using the service.

Uber and Lyft have been criticized for not making background checks of drivers, passengers have been raped, beaten or worse.  All I needed was a Google identify which is easy to fake, although mine is real and shows my standard business photograph. If I have to say so myself, I look pretty attractive in the photograph. If a rapist wanted to, he could figure out a successful plan. As a semi public figure as a writer, I’m very careful about my photographs online.

There is a choice to either offer the ride for free or get reimbursed for expensive at the 54 cents rate.  Since I drive an electric car and pay about 5 cents a mile in electricity, even with my car insurance and depreciation I could make about 25 cents a mile which is less than a UBER driver makes, if we estimate that a driver makes about $10 an hour. I could gain a better profit from a long distance ride. However, my electric car only has the range of about 70-80 miles without air conditioning and it’s v-e-r-y hot lately. Drivers with passengers can use the HOV lane which could reduce commute time. The HOV lane incentive is not a good reason for me because with my electric car, I already have an HOV use sticker.

The way the carpool registration works, it would be possible for someone without a license, driving a car that is not registered in his/her name, without a driver’s license and without insurance to drive for this service. Another possibility that although it states that driver’s have to be 21, no proof age is required. A teenage driver could use his parents’ car to drive friend to and from parties and get paid for it while the parent don’t know where the extra mileage on the minivan is coming from. Eventually, riders would figure it out something was wrong. Sometimes I can’t tell by looking at someone if he is 18 or 21. However, the first riders who rate their drivers are actually guinea pigs for the rest of the riders.

It’s kind of like the early days of Craigslist, many transactions were perfectly fine, while the format opened up the opportunity for scammers.

All the carpool app states is that “your driver is an everyday Wazer.” I doesn’t prove the driver is not a criminal, convicted felon or registered sex offender.

I live in an “improving” neighborhood, I don’t like looking at the registered sex offender map because many people in my neighborhood are registered sex offenders. Also although I have car insurance, say for example I pickup someone who is sick or drunk, I may have the added expense of cleaning up the vehicle, after the ride.

When I registered for the app, I put in a bogus work address very easily. Wazers have a good reputation for helping each other out on the road. However, I don’t want to be the rider or driver who finds out too late that I’m in trouble.

I think the Waze carpool app would be fine if two people worked at the same business. HR would be able to confirm the identity of the passengers or drivers. The Waze Carpool app would also be fine for students who attend the same school, university or college who can verify the identity of the driver or passengers. So why is Waze launching the program. It makes them look good and then they are insured that they the get data and the driver uses the Waze app. Riders who usually use Uber or Lyft get discount but what do drivers get.

At the LA Auto Show, my associate and I were at a seminar, where a company was touting a car sharing service, drivers can rent out their cars. I asked, “What happens if the driver has head lice? My associate added “or bed bugs?” The final question was “What happens if the driver has head lice, bed bugs, a communicable disease and then stops at Home Depot and loads up the car with fertilizer?.” The service had insurance to cover that case. However, it could be really bad, the same thing could be true of Waze carpooling although highly unlikely.

Now after saying all that. Almost every year when I stay at a hotel in Las Vegas at CES, if I see someone on the way to convention center with a CES badge at the hotel, I offer them a ride. The trains are full, cabs are expensive and I like meeting other people who work in technology. Through the badge I know that had to register and usually a driver’s license or passport is required to pick up the badge. All I know about them is that they are staying at the same hotel, their name if I can read it  and that they are staying at the same hotel. If Waze could provide that same level of checking, license, identity check through a passport or driver’s license, I would feel better until then, I’ll be driving to my bogus job by myself.

We have just learned of Scoop claims it uses “vehicle history checks”. They guarantee a ride home. Employers can support Scoop and lower the cost of the rides for employees. Scoop reimbursements range from $3 to $9 per passenger, per trip. Riders get the vehicle make, model and license plate of the vehicle that will pick them up. Scoop removes any poorly rated drivers or riders.

“Trips are monitored by private and secure GPS data to confirm trip efficiency and safety”…hugh? I registered to be a driver and my area is not available, yet. We’ll see.