Google's self-driving auto unit Waymo is turning to auto rental giant Avis Budget Group for support of its growing autonomous vehicle fleet. The company has built a fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacific minivans that it is testing on public roads, and has announced it will grow that fleet to 600 vehicles this year to support its early rider program, a trial with volunteer riders in the Phoenix area.
The agreement is a multiyear, although non-exclusive, deal.
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 (Frankfurt: 813516 - news) exchange in NY.
The stock price for Avis Budget Group, the parent company of companies including Avis and Zipcar, jumped to a high of $29.14 per share on news of the partnership. The project has been spun off from Google's self-driving vehicle project, and Waymo is using a fleet of adapted Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to flawless its self-driving technology. Avis will retrofit certain facilities in Phoenix with tents to shelter the cars from the elements, but the rental company will not purchase any new land. Waymo is also collaborating with Lyft to bring self-driving cars into the mainstream. Waymo also has 70 Lexus vehicles.
The maintenance deal does not appear to extend to the actual rental of self-driving cars; riders who wish to use Waymo's vehicles now must apply for permission to participate in the company's early rider program. Avis will handle cleaning, oil changes, tire rotations and other vehicle services but will not be responsible for upkeep on Waymo's specialized hardware, such as its lidar sensors.
Apple got authorization from the California DMV earlier this year to test self-driving vehicles.
Waymo is a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.
The deal is nonexclusive, according to a Waymo spokesperson.
"Partnerships can come together very, very quickly when both parties have something to gain", Krafcik said. But realistically it's not clear how useful that will be: remember that Waymo is partnering with Lyft, too, which also has plenty of savvy with on-demand cars.
Waymo and Avis said the Phoenix service arrangement will begin later this year.