Waymo, Google’s former self-driving project that’s now an Alphabet company, announced today a new series of partnerships aimed at giving more people access to its autonomous vehicles. Through deals with Walmart, AutoNation, Avis and others, Waymo will pick up customers and drive them to businesses in the Phoenix area.
The company already had existing relationships with AutoNation and Avis Budget Group. The former helps Waymo to service and maintain its vehicles in Phoenix, while the latter helps to charge, refuel and clean its cars. So it made sense to bring these two on board in a more expanded role as partners, who can now benefit from the technology to serve their own customers.
AutoNation will now begin to offer customers a Waymo vehicle instead of a loaner, while their own car is serviced. Meanwhile, Avis customers in Phoenix will be able to get into a Waymo when dropping off or picking up their rental car, starting with Avis’ two Chandler locations.
Walmart is another high-profile partner. Starting later this week, the two will begin a test pilot that offers members of Waymo’s early rider program grocery savings when they shop from Walmart.com. The riders will be able to take a Waymo car to their nearby Walmart store for grocery pickup, when the order is ready.
Two other partnerships involve DDR taking shoppers to the Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center in Chandler and the Element Hotel in Chandler offering select guests – like business travelers – access to Waymo cars for commuting during their hotel stay.
Waymo says it decided on these partnerships after seeing how early riders were using its vehicles. Many of its riders were taking Waymo cars in order to run errands, grocery shop, commute to work, go to dinner, or while having their own vehicles repaired. The resulting partnerships represent eight of the top ten activities Waymo riders do, it says.
The company also hints that the partnerships in the Metro Phoenix area could be expanded further if all goes well, given that its partners operate across the U.S.
The launch of the partnership program follows last week’s news that Waymo cars are now driving 25,000 miles per day, and have completed 8 million miles on public roads to date.