In its split from parent company Alphabet, Waymo acquired not only a new name, but also a new focus on partnering with established automakers to develop self-driving cars. The newly-independent company is already working with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but it may take on a second partner as well.
Honda announced yesterday that it was “entering into formal discussions” with Waymo to integrate the company’s autonomous-driving tech with its cars. If both parties agree to collaborate, Honda would provide a fleet of vehicles to be outfitted with Waymo hardware, and engineers from the two companies would work together in some capacity.
The arrangement could be broadly similar to the partnership Waymo currently has with FCA. The Italian-American automaker just delivered 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo for conversion into autonomous test vehicles. The minivans were prepped by FCA for the installation of sensors and other hardware that will enable autonomous driving. FCA and Waymo engineers are also working side by side in Michigan.
Honda is already conducting some of its own autonomous-car testing. It has a prototype vehicle based on the RLX Sport Hybrid from its Acura luxury division, which has been testing at GoMentum station, a dedicated testing facility for self-driving cars on the grounds of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Honda hopes to put cars with at least some autonomous capabilities on sale around 2020.
A partnership with Waymo could allow Honda to “explore a different technological approach to bring fully self-driving technology to market,” a press release from the automaker said. However, the two companies are only in the initial stage of discussions, and haven’t committed to any collaboration yet.
Waymo was previously the Google self-driving car project, but was reorganized into an independent entity. When the reorganization was announced earlier this month, Waymo said it would cease development work on its home-built, pod-like prototype cars. While the cute cars garnered plenty of positive buzz, Waymo has decided that it doesn’t want to get into the business of building cars. It plans to commercialize its technology by working with existing automakers.