Today it was revealed that Avis Budget Group will now support and maintain Waymo's driverless car fleet in Phoenix, the company's first public trial of self-driving cars. This is an unprecedented partnership in the autonomous vehicle field and conveys the steps driverless companies are taking to make their vehicles more accessible to the public.
This partnership is intended to support Waymo's growing driverless fleet and early rider program in Phoenix. By working with Avis, Waymo hopes to present customers with self-driving cars that are ready to use whenever needed.
Based on the terms of the agreement, Avis will alter selected rental facilities to make room for Waymo's fleet. The company will also clean the cars' interiors and exteriors, perform oil changes, tire rotations, maintain all automotive parts, and perform any other services on the care when needed. Despite caring for the cars, Avis will not own them. Waymo will own the autonomous vehicles and pay Avis for servicing and storing them. The agreement spans several years but is not exclusive, meaning that Waymo could develop more deals like this with other companies.
It's likely that Avis' Zipcar — an on-demand ride sharing and car rental service with over one million members — attracted to Waymo to the company, as it proves Avis is capable of managing fleets of cars in urban centers. Moreover, it's possible Waymo will eventually take advantage of Zipcar's already-established infrastructure and provide Zipcar users with Waymo vehicles.
In a press release put out by Avis today, Waymo's CEO John Krafcik states that this partnership will address practical concerns of presenting a driverless car fleet to the public.
With members of the public using our growing fleet of self-driving cars, our vehicles need standard maintenance and cleaning so they're ready for our riders at any time of the day or night. Avis Budget Group is an ideal partner to provide fleet support and maintenance. With thousands of locations around the world, Avis Budget Group can help us bring our technology to more people, in more places.
For Waymo, the practical benefits of this partnership are evident. Avis, however, is hoping to use this deal to find its place in the driverless field and prepare for its impact on the rental car industry. Avis President and CEO Larry De Shon echoed this in a statement in the press release, highlighting that the automobile industry will be transformed by autonomous technology.
We are excited to partner with Waymo, the self-driving technology leader that is changing the mobility landscape in a profoundly transformative and beneficial manner. Not only does this partnership enable us to leverage our current capabilities and assets, but it also allows us to accelerate our knowledge and hands-on experience in an emerging area as Waymo-enabled self-driving cars become available in the marketplace.
Waymo plans to use 600 of its Chrysler vehicles in Phoenix. While the exact date the public will be able to test out these cars is still unknown, Phoenix residents can expect to access them later in 2017.