Renault and Nissan have signed an exclusive deal with Waymo to develop self-driving transport services in Paris and Japan, in a show of unity for the shaky alliance between the two carmakers.
The trio will develop services for transporting people and goods using Waymo’s self-driving technology that is currently being trialled in the US, incorporated into their vehicles.
The FT reported on Wednesday that several key business divisions of the alliance have been dissolved as the two businesses drift further apart, undoing work by former leader Carlos Ghosn to try to make the alliance “irreversible”.
To conduct the new projects with Waymo, Renault and Nissan will create new “alliance-focused” joint venture companies based in Paris and Tokyo, headed by alliance new projects executive Hadi Zablit.
“We believe this partnership will accelerate our commitment to deliver new shared mobility services,” said Renault chief executive Thierry Bolloré.
Working with Waymo, they will research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to driverless transportation-as-a-service offerings in France and Japan, with the aim of rolling out services in the following years.
The alliance previously pledged to launch a self-driving service by 2022, under a midterm plan covering Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.
“As we continue our work through the midterm plan to evolve our business to meet changing consumer behaviour, Nissan aims to be an early provider of driverless mobility service,” said Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa.
The deal marks a show of strength for the alliance between Nissan and Renault that has been knocked by the arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn last November.
Relations between the pair have deteriorated, including a 10-day stand-off over Nissan’s proposed governance changes that ended on Wednesday after the Japanese group backed down.
Industry figures have raised questions over whether their partnership can survive in its current format.
The collaboration also marks the first time that Waymo, the self-driving business spun out of Google, has explored deploying outside of the US market.
“This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage,” said Waymo chief executive John Krafcik.
As well as Japan and France, the services with Renault and Nissan could also be rolled out to other countries aside from China, the companies said.
Waymo has already struck deals to use vehicles from Chrysler and Jaguar brands for its autonomous fleets, but this is the first time the company has started working on specific services, as well as its first commercial venture outside the US. It previously tested automated delivery services with Walmart.
The partnership is the latest in a web of alliances forged as carmakers and technology companies work together to try to solve the potential difficulties of having vehicles that operate on public roads without the need for a human behind the wheel.
As well as promising to all but eliminate fatal road accidents by removing human error, self-driving technology also potentially opens the way for a suite of new business models, from robo-taxis to autonomous freight services.
Ford is experimenting with autonomous postal services, while General Motors through its Cruise unit is also planning to launch a public robo-taxi service. Uber is also testing self-driving Volvo vehicles for use in its own ride-hailing network.
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