French automaker Renault SA, its Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co and tech giant Alphabet Inc’s Waymo are exploring a partnership to develop and use self-driving vehicles to transport people and goods in France and Japan, the companies said on Thursday.
The proposed venture could also be expanded to other markets, the companies said.
If the partnership is realized, it will have ramifications for other alliances and other self-driving projects, most of which have yet to hit the road. Automakers across the world are re-thinking independent autonomous vehicle efforts, and instead looking for partners to share rising investment costs and regulatory risks.
In Japan, a potential competitor to a Renault-Nissan-Waymo venture would be Monet Technologies, a self-driving project involving Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co and backed by SoftBank Group Corp. SoftBank and Honda also have invested in General Motors Co’s Cruise self-driving car unit.
The initial agreement among Waymo, Renault and Nissan aims to “develop a framework for deployment of mobility services at scale,” according to Hadi Zablit, Renault-Nissan Alliance business development chief. Physical testing of vehicles and deployment of services would come in later phases.
The two automakers will set up 50-50 joint ventures in France and Japan to develop the driverless transportation services. Zablit said a later Waymo investment is “one of the options” under consideration.