Waymo has entered into an agreement with rental car company Avis that will see Avis manage its autonomous vehicle fleet in Phoenix. Phoenix is the site of Waymo’s first commercial self-driving car service, with the Alphabet-owned company launching an on-demand ride pilot in the Arizona city earlier this year.
The agreement, first reported by Bloomberg, will see Avis service and house Waymo’s fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix. Waymo still owns the cars, and it will pay Avis service fees in exchange for its role. The agreement is set for a multi-year span, but it isn’t exclusive, meaning Waymo could arrange similar deals with other rental service providers should it choose to do so.
Part of Avis’ appeal for Waymo, according to Bloomberg, is its ownership of Zipcar, the on-demand car sharing network that Avis acquired in 2013. Avis’ Zipcar experience shows the rental provider knows how to manage a distributed fleet of cars across an urban environment, with an app-based booking platform that incorporates location and billing.
On the Avis side, the deal means retrofitting existing owned real estate for housing the minivans, though not acquiring any more space. It’ll also handle regular maintenance of Waymo’s Pacificas, including cleaning and mechanical service. The service and housing arrangement isn’t yet active, and will go into effect later this year.
The autonomous vehicle industry shift continues to result in stakeholders playing musical chairs, and this is a prime example. Avis is smart to stake out an early claim, even in an non-exclusive arrangement that likely won’t drive significant revenue off the bat, just to help demonstrate where it might fit in once autonomy becomes a more widespread part of the transit industry.