Waymo has been negotiating a partnership with Honda since late 2016, when the company was still housed within Google. But now those talks are nearing completion, according to Bloomberg. And rather than moving people, the partnership with Honda will focus on delivering goods.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik wouldn’t reveal much, but the implication is that a deal should be announced soon:
Krafcik said not to expect the new service to take the form of a “traditional car driven on roads.” His comments suggest Waymo is ready to try co-creating a vehicle from scratch with an automaker rather than modifying existing models, as it has done with Jaguar and Fiat Chrysler. The Honda model may move people and goods, Krafcik hinted; it might be smaller than a truck and could come without a steering wheel or brakes. A Honda spokesman said the companies are “continuing to explore” the relationship.
An entirely new vehicle built from the ground up in partnership with a major OEM would be new territory for the self-driving company, which traditionally has collaborated with automakers to outfit existing models with its self-driving technology.
Waymo is no newcomer to delivery and logistics. The company has been ramping up its own self-driving trucking service, announcing recently that it would soon begin delivering freight for Google’s data centers in Atlanta. The trucks won’t be completely driverless, but will be operating on public roads during the pilot, the company said.
“We’ve been so focused on safety and we always have been,” he said. “It makes sense for us to continue that good work, and make it safer and better.”
As for the future, Krafcik said the goal was to have a range of vehicles to accommodate different types of transportation.
“We’re interested in diversity of OEMs and diversity of product forms so we can get closer to the ideal of serving the ideal car for each particular trip that folks ask for,” Krafcik told The Verge last week. “So you will see different sized vehicles from Waymo and our OEM partners going forward in our service.”