Alphabet's self-driving subsidiary Waymo is partnering with
rental company Avis to service Waymo's fleet of self-driving cars in Phoenix, Ariz. The partnership will make it easier for Waymo to grow its current test ridership program.
The relationship between the companies provides insight on an emerging ecosystem for self-driving cars.
The deal is nonexclusive, according to a Waymo spokesperson. The company didn't disclose deal terms. Bloomberg News first reported on the partnership.
Avis satisfies two key needs for Waymo: Locations and maintenance.
Avis has 11,000 rental locations worldwide. Access to those locations means, down the road, Waymo could have access to a lot of places to keep self-driving cars when they are not on the road, without having to build its own locations.
Working with Avis allows Alphabet to put more self-driving cars on the road for its autonomous ride-hailing program, according to a company spokesperson.
Waymo is currently expanding its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans from 100 vehicles to 600. Waymo also has 70 Lexus vehicles. The original 100 Chrysler vehicles are being tested in Phoenix, Ariz; Mountain View, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Kirkland, Wash. Waymo has not disclosed how many of the 100 initial Chrysler vehicles are in the early-rider program, which is only in Phoenix.
Waymo won't comment on whether the partnership includes plans to expand beyond Phoenix, but it's easy to see how Alphabet could incorporate other locations into its autonomous ride-hailing effort based on Avis locations.
Avis has a system of cleaning and maintaining cars, including basic services like oil changes and tire changes, that it can provide for self-driving vehicles. That means Waymo won't have to spend money to hire workers and build out facilities. Waymo currently handles maintenance on its own.
Waymo is not working on a way to rent out Waymo's cars through Avis, according to Alphabet. But Waymo CEO John Krafcik did say part of the appeal of working with Avis is the rental company's ownership of Zipcar, the on-demand rental service.
The Emerging Ecosystem
The Avis partnership shows how Alphabet is building out an ecosystem for its autonomous business.
In addition to Avis, Alphabet's Waymo already has a partnership with Lyft, while manufacturers like Chrysler or Lexus build the cars that run Waymo's technology.
Because the partnership is nonexclusive, Avis will be free to partner with other self-driving manufacturers, and Alphabet will be free to work with other rental services.
Separately, Apple plans to lease some vehicles from rental company Hertz to test its own self-driving technology.
© 2017 Re/Code under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
Image credit: Google/Waymo.
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