Waymo takes its self-driving car ambitions global in partnership with Renault-Nissan

Waymo has locked in an exclusive partnership with Renault and Nissan to research how commercial autonomous vehicles might work for passengers and packages in France and Japan.

The public announcement says it will last for “an initial period,” which seems to imply that the exclusive partnership has an expiration date. However, the companies also described this announcement as a “first step,” a suggestion that a potentially longer term and more substantial partnership is coming. Waymo nor the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance provided more details on the timeframe.

For now, research is the basis of the partnership. The companies plan to research commercial, legal and regulatory issues. However, Waymo CEO John Krafcik, and by extension the company, sees this as an opening to deploy commercial services in these two countries, and possibly China and other countries.

“This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner,” Krafcik said in a statement. “With the Alliance’s international reach and scale, our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan, and other countries.”

Renault and Nissan plan to create joint venture Alliance-focused companies in France and Japan dedicated to autonomous vehicle mobility services.

The announcement follows a recent spate of alliances, failed deals and partnerships between a number of autonomous vehicle companies, suppliers and automakers.

In May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew its proposal to merge with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a 50-50 tie-up that was touted as a way to reduce costs and put more capital toward bringing to market next-generation technologies like self-driving cars.

While that merger fizzled, a deal that had been in the works between Fiat Chrysler and self-driving car startup Aurora became public. That announcement was quickly followed by a Financial Times article that reported VW had ended its partnership with Aurora.

All the while, negotiations between VW and Ford-backed Argo AI continue.