- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mountain View, California-based Google is testing out carpooling on its Waze traffic app in nearby San Francisco, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The beta testing this fall has in view a wider launch in the United States, all the better to compete with established ride-sharing apps Lyft and Uber.

Google has already tested a smaller pilot program around its headquarters, limiting the ride-sharing to twice a day — to and from work — and paying drivers gas money — 54 cents per mile, the Journal reported.

“The company hopes to mimic Waze’s development in Israel, where the company was founded. Waze is now available as a traditional ride-hailing service in most parts of Israel after Google tested the carpool service on Israel commuters last year,” the Journal explained in a video.

Waze — a crowdsourced GPS app where users can learn of traffic conditions in real time thanks to information shared by other users — was purchased by Google in 2013.

Unlike rivals Uber or Lyft, the Waze carpooling app will not vet prospective drivers with a background check, possibly expanding the pool of potential drivers otherwise prohibited from other services. Even so, Waze drivers would not be immune from tax or regulatory headaches depending on the states and localities where they would be driving.

“The program is bound to put [Google parent] Alphabet in complicated legal territory,” Slate.com predicted on Tuesday. “The company will rely on user ratings to vet drivers, forgoing any system of background checks. (Uber and Lyft have pushed for state laws to pre-empt local background checks and left cities over fingerprint requirements.) The program will also put thousands of drivers in the awkward position of making a very small amount of income from a secondary job.”

Indeed, tax headaches are bound to multiply for Waze drivers, even ones who only occasionally give passengers a lift. “Drivers are responsible for determining if the Reimbursement is taxable, and for remitting taxes to the appropriate tax authority,” Slate.com quoted from the app’s terms of service. 

“In short, the program will test the value of a solitary commute,” Slate predicted.

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