Waymo, Honda Reportedly Partnering on AV Development

Autonomous vehicle specialist Waymo is planning a development partnership with Japanese auto giant Honda, CEO John Krafcik told Bloomberg News in an interview published this week, but what that joint venture will look like is still a guessing game.Details concerning the partnership to jointly develop self-driving vehicles were scare, with allusions to a “brand new type of vehicle” and a focus on delivery and logistics, possibly indicating more commercial use cases.

Reports of Honda and Waymo working together first surfaced in 2016, however this is the first time even general details concerning the endeavor have been made public.

The profile also touches on the recent fatal crash in Arizona involving a self-driving Uber vehicle, an incident that dominated headlines for a week and led to Uber suspending all testing of self-driving vehicles.

Krafcik, after viewing video of the crash, said the incident would have never occurred with a Waymo vehicle, and while other car companies such as Toyota voluntarily suspended testing, Waymo’s fully autonomous test vehicles remain on the road.

“We asked all the hard questions before we deployed,” Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo’s technical chief, said in the Bloomberg report.

A subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Waymo already has a fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans roaming the streets of Arizona.

The company also has permission from Arizona to turn its futuristic self-driving taxi experiment in Phoenix into a commercial service — an announcement made in February.

In the interview, Krafcik mentions additional partnerships — say with Ford, Hyandai or a Chinese company — were possible in the future.

The report follows Waymo’s official announcement late in March that it is teaming up with Jaguar Land Rover to offer a luxury, self-driving SUV.

Based on the iconic car company’s I-PACE design, it will start testing later this year in anticipation of creating a ride-sharing fleet of about 20,000 vehicles.

Waymo has already promised its autonomous, ride-hailing offering will be available later this year and ahead of competing services that are slated for 2019.

The company faces competition from startups like Lyft, as well as by legacy car markers such as Daimler and BMW. The German luxury brands, and arch-rivals, recently announced plans to merge their respective mobility resources — such as car sharing — together.

Ford is also ramping up its commercial self-driving vehicle presence with trials in Miami — the company wants to test how self-driving cars can reduce commute times and improve the efficiency of delivery-based businesses.

The first part of Ford’s presence will involve pilot programs throughout the year that include partners such as Domino’s and Postmates.

The knowledge gained from this customer experience research will be applied to the design of Ford’s purpose-built self-driving vehicle that the company plans to launch in 2021.

Even rental agencies are getting into the car-sharing game.

Last month Avis Budget Group, one of the world’s largest car-rental companies, announced it would buy at least 10,000 connected cars from Toyota, part of Avis’s plan to make its whole global fleet of more than 500,000 vehicles connected by 2020.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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