After Uber, Israeli Officials to Summon Waze Execs Over Carpool Services

With Uber Israel already threatened with prosecution, state turns its eyes on Israeli-designed navigation, public transport apps, taking aim at paid ride sharing.

Bloomberg

Senior executives of Waze will be summoned shortly for questioning by Transportation Ministry officials seeking information about its carpool service, TheMarker has learned. This is apparently part of a larger investigation into companies that are suspected of violating the law that prohibits offering rides for pay.

Last week TheMarker reported that the ministry might prosecute the heads of Uber Israel in connection with the night service it launched in November.

Waze, the popular navigation program, has over the past year also offered a “hitchhiking” plan that connects people who are traveling the same route. The service allows any driver to pick up passengers and charge them a fee to cover the cost of the ride, which is calculated according to the route. A similar service is offered by the Moovit app.

The Transportation Ministry’s position is that on a factual level there isn’t any difference between Uber’s activities and those of Waze and Moovit. Nevertheless, the investigation is making a distinction between Waze’s and Moovit’s service and that of Uber Night, which spurred the investigation. While the first two link up people who are in any case going in the same direction, with Uber Night the driver gets a call from a dispatcher and makes a special trip to pick up and deliver the passenger to his destination.

Waze refused to respond for this report.

A user scans for an available vehicle using the Uber Technologies Inc.'s app on an  iPhone.
Bloomberg

All three companies have repeatedly stressed that the drivers in their ride-sharing programs are not allowed to profit from their activities, but only to receive partial compensation for their expenses, because transportation regulations forbid private individuals from taking money for giving rides. But despite these declarations, it isn’t clear why a driver working for Uber Night would get into his car for the sole purpose of driving passengers to destinations of their choosing without being able to profit.

Uber Night is currently operating as a pilot program during the nighttime hours on weekends, and only in Tel Aviv. In its limited fashion, it mimics the operating model of Uber X, the company’s famous service abroad, which allows passengers to order rides from registered drivers at less than the cost of a taxi.

This service has been blocked in Israel, not least because of the powerful opposition of taxi drivers. Moreover, the ministry claims that in many cases an Uber ride is no cheaper than a ride in a regular taxi, certainly not during peak periods.