Google's Waze is shutting down its carpool service starting next month

Google-owned Waze is shuttering Waze Carpool, its service designed to connect drivers and commuters, starting next month. The six-year-old service is shutting down due to shifting commuting patterns as a result of the pandemic, the company says.

The service first launched in San Francisco in 2016 and since expanded to the rest of the United States, Brazil and Israel. The company launched a standalone carpool app in 2018.

"Driving behaviors on the roads have changed: while Waze was predominantly a commuting app pre-COVID, today the proportion of errands and travel drives have surpassed commutes," a Waze spokesperson told TechCrunch in an email. "We want to continue to make a real-world impact by doubling down on helping cities address mobility problems such as congestion, safety, sustainability and cost. In order for us to achieve this we will be retiring the Waze Carpool service to focus the company’s efforts on better supporting drivers on the road today."

Waze Carpool's goal was to connect people to carpoolers on their route to help save money and fuel, while decreasing the number of cars on the road during rush hour. The app let riders and drivers find their own carpool buddies based on profiles, star ratings, number of mutual friends and customizable filters such as gender, co-worker or classmate. The app was designed to display the best matches, such as those closest to a preferred route or a co-worker on the same shift.

Unlike rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, Waze Carpool was not intended as a way for drivers to earn money. Instead, it was seen as a way for drivers to offer rides to commuters who were traveling on the same route as them for a small fee. Drivers could then use HOV lanes to get to their workplaces faster while also reducing the number of cars on the road.

Given shifting patterns as a result of the pandemic that have led to more people working from home, Waze Carpool likely no longer had a steady stream of commuters to rely on to make this service viable.

"We are proud of what we accomplished through Waze Carpool, and are grateful to the Carpool community for sharing drives and working together to take cars off the road," the spokesperson said.

Waze says it will focus on finding even more impactful ways to bring together a global community to share real-time insights and help each other outsmart traffic. The company wants to work on better supporting drivers on the road and help cities address mobility problems.

Waze notes that people are driving more than ever before as the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it's seeing higher than pre-pandemic miles on the road. In the United States, this is as much as 5-15% higher than before the pandemic, depending on the state, the company says.