Google-owned navigation service Waze is shutting down its six-year-old ride-sharing service, citing changing commuting patterns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting in September, the company will begin the process of ending its ride-sharing service, which was available in the US, Brazil and Israel. Waze said it will explore other ways it can help serve the 150 million customers worldwide who use its navigation app.

“While Waze was primarily a commuter app before COVID, today the share of errands and trips has surpassed trips,” the company said in a statement provided to On the edge. “This means we have the opportunity to find even more impactful ways to bring a global community together to share real-time insights and help each other outsmart traffic — which is what has always made Waze truly special.”

First launched in the Bay Area in 2016, Waze Carpool eventually expanded to all 50 US states, as well as Brazil and Waze’s home country of Israel. The service differed from ride-sharing services offered by Uber and Lyft in that it allowed non-professional drivers to offer rides to people traveling a similar route for a nominal fee. In 2018, the company launched its own standalone ride-sharing app.

The impetus, at least initially, was to get more people to share rides in the interest of reducing the number of single-seat vehicles on the roads. Waze said it will use its “superior routing technology” to help commuters fill empty spaces in their cars and, in the process, hopefully reduce the number of cars on the road.

Waze insisted it is not in the business of making money. However, the company relies on partnerships with large employers who can encourage workers to use the service. At one point, Waze sent teams of employees to WeWork locations bearing tacos and other free goodies to persuade young professionals to download the app.

Ride-sharing has been on the decline for the past few decades. In the 1970s, at the height of the gas crisis, about 20 percent of Americans carpooled to work; now that number is about 9 percent. Both Uber and Lyft have tried to get their respective customers to share rides with varying degrees of success.

But if carpooling was starting to regain some modest momentum, COVID effectively halted it. Uber and Lyft shut down their ride-sharing services in the early months of the pandemic. Now that the number of cases is declining and vaccines are widely available, carpooling is making a comeback — mostly as a response to rising fares.

Waze’s service relied on a steady stream of people visiting the office every day, and that has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. According to a recent study, 35 percent said they could work from home full time. Another 23 percent can work from home between one and four days a week.

Waze said it will continue to work with cities on their mobility challenges. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished through Waze Carpool, and we’re grateful to the Carpool community for sharing driving and working together to get cars off the road,” the company added.

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