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Waymo and Renault eye Paris for full-fledged robo-taxi service

Waymo has been forging a number of partnerships with established automakers as a way to accelerate its autonomous-car ambitions.

Following a deal inked with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in June 2019, Waymo announced this month that both it and Renault will begin exploring the idea of launching a robo-taxi service in Paris, France.

Such a service would mark Waymo’s first major effort outside of the U.S., where it has been conducting extensive public-road trials of its technology, and operating a limited robo-taxi service to select residents in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of ongoing testing.

The service proposed by Waymo and Renault wouldn’t cover the whole of Paris, instead limiting itself to a specific route of 21 miles (34 km) between Charles de Gaulle Airport and La Défense, a major business district located on the northwestern outskirts of the French capital. The use of specific routes or transportation corridors is normal practice for pilot efforts involving autonomous-car technology as the environment is more controlled and predictable, increasing the chances of safety-conscious regulators giving such efforts the green light.

Available to residents and tourists of Paris and the surrounding area, the proposed service is described by Renault as part of its commitment to offer “innovative and accessible solutions to tackle urban environmental congestion and pave the way for the smart cities of tomorrow.”

California-based Waymo, which emerged from Google’s self-driving car project in 2016, said it’s looking forward to working with Renault to deploy its autonomous vehicles on the well-used business route between Charles de Gaulle Airport and La Défense.

No specific date has been set for the launch of the proposed robo-taxi service, but it’s hoped that a fleet of autonomous vehicles will be able to begin offering rides before the Paris Olympics in 2024.

As noted at the top, Waymo started offering on-demand rides for paying passengers toward the end of last year as part of its Waymo One pilot service in Phoenix, Arizona. Its autonomous Chrysler-Pacifica minivans have backup drivers present in case anything goes awry during a trip, though in recent days Waymo said it’s now ready to start offering rides without backup driver.

With regulations for self-driving vehicles still on the strict side, it seems likely that app-based robo-taxi services for specific routes or areas will proliferate long before individual ownership of such cars becomes a thing. Indeed, a growing number of automakers have their sights set on building and operating such ridesharing services. As a tech firm, Waymo hopes that forging partnerships with a range of automakers will help it to dominate the market as robo-taxi services begin to expand.

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