The free Waze mobile app acquired by Google in 2013 helped bridge the divide between expensive GPS driving devices and web-based map applications. It delivers a pretty accurate driving app that gives great directions, shows high-traffic areas and lets users customize the look and sound. Waze even hired Liam Neeson to voice its directions, which earns it a ton of points from us out of the gate.
Instead of relying on satellites to determine a driver's best route, the Waze app is community based. It collects data from its users' mobile devices to compare routes and monitor traffic activity and hazards on the road.
So the next logical step is a crowd-sourced transportation service that helps users get around even if they don't own cars. Hence, Google released the free Waze Carpool app for iOS and Android over the summer. Initially, the service — which uses the same crowdsourced data system to set up rides and routes to and from work — was only available in California, but it launched in Dallas in December.
It works just as well as Waze's main map app, except for one key ingredient: the rides. During our three-day test run, we never got past the ordering phase.
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The app works fine and is very easy to set up and use. You input your home address and your work address, and then you can search for a carpooler who's close to your "Point A" and "Point B."
The ride screen suggests riders in your area who have registered their vehicles with the app. You can also offer to give rides to other Waze users near your home or office. The app automatically handles payment, pulling it from users' bank or online accounts.
Joining a carpool isn't as quick and simple as ordering a ride through Lyft or Uber since it's not the drivers' main job. Over a three-day period, we tried to get a ride from the writer's apartment to the Dallas Observer office in Uptown.
There are plenty of cars and drivers in both areas, but when we tried to hitch a ride with another user, and when we registered our car to offer other people rides, we never received an offer. The app found only three potential users, not enough to make it it feasible as a daily commuting service.