Stuck in traffic heading out of Tokyo, Kohei Miwa noticed how few of the cars near him on the expressway were carrying passengers.

"It occurred to me that car-pooling would be one way to reduce traffic jams," said Miwa, a 38-year-old former banker who worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

Miwa quit banking in 2013, giving up millions of yen a year in income, to set up Notteco, which lets people use the Internet to find drivers offering intercity travel at a minimum cost. For now, he's providing the match-making service for free, allowing drivers and passengers to share their costs without paying a commission until he expands his base.