Company / division: Waze
One of the best recent examples of the fragmentation that still exists within Alphabet and even within Google specifically is the fact that Waze, the navigation app acquired by Google a couple of years ago, has been working on what’s effectively a ride sharing service, and that it’s been doing so entirely independently of any other part of Alphabet or Google that’s working on related services and technology. It grew entirely out of Waze engineers’ desire to do something interesting rather than out of any strategic imperative from Alphabet management, which means that Alphabet’s Waymo has launched a test of a self-driving ride sharing service while Waze is expanding its Carpool service and the two have nothing to do with each other. To focus on Waze for a minute, it had previously launched its Carpool service in the Bay Area, and now is expanding it to the rest of California. But it’s still more of a true ride sharing service than most of the other services that get painted with that label – this is intended purely as a way for people to literally share rides to places one of them is already driving to, and to help split the driver’s gas money. As such, it also hasn’t generated revenue for Waze, which has merely passed along the entire IRS mileage rate to the driver, so it needs to find some other way to make money, and it looks like that might at least in part be showing ads to users of its app. It’s ironic, then, that even though the interesting disruptive transportation technology has no connection to the rest of Google or Alphabet, but its business model might end up borrowing quite a bit from its parent.
Although most of the attention Alphabet gets around cars is around its Waymo division, which is focused on autonomous driving, Google’s Waze group is also doing interesting things around another of the three major shifts happening in transportation: ride sharing and urban mobility. In this case, it’s not so much an Uber- or Lyft-like driver-provided service as a simple carpooling arrangement with a little compensation for the driver, but in that sense it has the potential to be more cost effective, using existing infrastructure to provide lower cost transportation and reducing congestion in the process. Google is building a ride sharing capability much more subtly and quietly than it is autonomous cars, but the former has far grater potential to make a big difference in disrupting traditional transportation in the near term.