Alphabet's autonomous vehicle subsidiary Waymo and rental car company Avis Budget Group Inc. agreed to the first self-driving vehicle management deal in the history of this emerging industry. The Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey-based firm is now set to service part of Waymo's self-driving fleet and will start doing so soon, with the partnership reportedly entailing all aspects of car maintenance and storage. Despite its robust infrastructure, Avis is still a traditional car rental company and as such isn't expected to be involved in any other aspect of Waymo's operations, i.e. the artificial intelligence (AI) element of the company's fleet that allows it to operate in an autonomous manner. Alphabet's subsidiary has so far mostly handled vehicle maintenance in-house, possibly as a precaution, being unwilling to allow third parties the opportunity to do a thorough inspection of its vehicles while they were still in a highly experimental stage of development, but as the company's operations continue to expand, its solutions keep getting perfected, and the technology powering them is becoming more broadly known, making a vehicle management partnership the next logical step in its endeavors.
Not many details of the deal between Waymo and Avis have been publicly disclosed as of this writing, though the collaboration is understood to be of the long-term variety and is likely meant to span years. Avis's stock is currently more than 11 percentage points up compared to yesterday, with some industry watchers believing that the deal will allow the company to bounce back from its recent issues caused by a decline in its main car rental business. The newly announced partnership is only said to entail Waymo's vehicle fleet in Phoenix, Arizona, where Alphabet's unit recently launched a public self-driving program, allowing local residents to ride in one of its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans free of charge. The collaboration may expand to more cities and states in the future but currently isn't as needed elsewhere, at least until Waymo expands the scope of its consumer-grade self-driving initiative.
As autonomous vehicles are on the move much more frequently than human-operated cars by design, they also deteriorate more quickly and need extra maintenance in order to stay operational, making partnerships such as the one between Waymo and Avis an important aspect of this emerging industry. More similar deals and related updates are expected to follow in the coming months.