Every week, it seems like some pundit or other predicts the death of the auto industry. Most of the reasons they cite seem far-fetched, but a few have a ring of truth about them.
One that fits in the latter category is ridesharing, an increasingly disruptive travel trend that's exploded in recent years. Ridesharing's popularity could be heading for a big boost in the near future, thanks to the beloved traffic app, Waze, and its owner, Google.
WHAT IS RIDESHARING ANYWAY?
There are dozens of players in the ridesharing field. Each works in a slightly different way, but they all allow vehicle owners to make money off their cars, and they all allow borrowers to avoid the costs of permanent vehicle ownership. They also all depend on ad hoc networks facilitated by mobile apps.
Uber is undoubtedly the biggest and best known ridesharing company. In fact, the quasi-taxi service has become so popular that it's fueled furious debates in cities across the globe, and a couple of weeks ago, it spawned riots in the streets of Paris.
Other companies like RelayRides and Dash work differently. Instead of having vehicle owners drive other folks around, network members can search for cars in their area and borrow them for set periods of time. Lenders make money off the rentals, while borrowers get to motor to Ikea and Costco to do their thing.
Then, there are ridesharing apps like Zimride, go520, and even Lyft (which is more commonly seen as an Uber competitor). These companies allow riders to search for carpools heading their way and split the cost of gas. This is where Waze fits in.
Waze has been around for several years, and in that time, it's become one of our favorite traffic and navigation apps. Now, it's entered the ridesharing field with a new project called Ridewith. Ridewith is in beta at the moment, available only in specific areas of Israel.
As with Zimride et al., Ridewith facilitates carpooling. It's not designed to help car owners earn a living, it just helps them defray expenses related to fuel and maintenance. For riders, it's a way of getting from Point A to Point B without spending so much dough.
Will Ridewith catch on in Israel? Maybe. Israel is obviously a much smaller country than the U.S., and many regions are densely populated, which makes carpooling attractive and efficient.
If Ridewith takes off, what then? Our guess is that Waze's owner, Google, would love to bring Ridewith to the U.S., but in much of America, carpooling has never caught on. Our hunch would be that Google/Waze will focus on countries where car ownership is less common and where carpooling is more viable. Europe could be fertile ground, as could Japan.
If Ridewith does arrive in the U.S., expect it to debut in larger cities first, especially those with large numbers of cars and commuters like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Atlanta. But here, it's unlikely that Uber has much to worry about for now.