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Waymo teams with Avis to keep self-driving cars going

2017-06-27 08:53

WAYMO TO HIT THE ROAD: A Chrysler Pacifica hybrid outfitted with Waymo's suite of sensors and radar is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Image: AP / /Paul Sancya

San Francisco - US car rental giant Avis Budget announced Monday (June 26) it will team up with Waymo on the self-driving cars being tested on Arizona roads.

The rental company said it would provide support and maintenance for Waymo, a subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, to keep the vehicles clean and mechanically ready to go.

Driverless car programs springing up

The news came the same day as Bloomberg reported that department of motor vehicle documents showed iPhone-maker Apple is renting a small number of Lexus sport-utility vehicles from US car rental service Hertz to test self-driving software and sensors.

Apple got authorization from the California DMV earlier this year to test self-driving vehicles.

Hertz declined to comment on the report and Apple did not respond requests for comment.

Major US car manufacturers have driverless car development programs, as does tech giant Apple.

Many automakers already have cars on the road with advanced driver-assist technology, most notably electric car producer Tesla.

Car rental company lots could serve as staging areas for self-driving cars people could summon as desired, providing the new transit technology an opportunity to spread quickly.

Share prices pop

News of the alliance with Waymo caused Avis Budget Group shares to jump 14.15 percent to $27.67 by the close of official trading on the Nasdaq exchange in New York. Financial terms of the multi-year agreement were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, shares of Hertz ended the trading day up 13.52% to $10.83.

Waymo chief executive John Krafcik said in a joint statement: "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.

"With thousands of locations around the world, Avis Budget Group can help us bring our technology to more people, in more places."

The collaboration will support Waymo's self-driving vehicle fleet and a ride-hailing service being tested in Phoenix, Arizona, according to the companies.

Avis Budget chief executive Larry De Shon said: "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."

Driverless pickups

Waymo recently announced plans to increase the number of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica mini-vans in its fleet to 600, and last month, announced it had reached an agreement with ride-share firm Lyft to explore self-driving car technology together.

That alliance teamed Waymo and Lyft against controversy-dented ridesharing giant Uber, which is racing to develop its own self-driving vehicles, and which is locked in a bitter legal dispute with Waymo.

In February, Waymo filed a lawsuit claiming a former manager took technical data when he left to launch a competing venture that was later acquired by Uber.

US Judge tells Uber to return Waymo files taken by engineer

On-demand ride services promise to be early adopters of self-driving car technology that would enable vehicles to automatically tend to requests.

Most major automakers and several other technology firms have been stepping up efforts on autonomous driving in recent years, contending these systems will eliminate the vast majority of road accidents. Apple is the latest to have obtained a testing permit in California.

German luxury carmaker Daimler and auto parts supplier Bosch announced plans this month to work together to create completely driverless cars in the next few years.

US-based Tesla also is investing in self-driving car capabilities, as are firms in China and other parts of the world.

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