Google, Avis Sign Deal to Maintain Waymo's Self-Driving Cars

The rental car agency will take care of the fleet of autonomous minivans wandering around Phoenix. 

Avis Budget Group

Avis will begin handling the maintenance duties for Waymo's fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the Phoenix, Arizona area later this year, the rental car agency announced on Monday. 

The deal between The Avis Budget Group and Waymo and Google parent company Alphabet will allow the tech giant's fleet of autonomous minivans to be serviced and receive other fleet support services at Avis and Budget rental car locations, Avis stated in a press release

"With members of the public using our growing fleet of self-driving cars, our vehicles need standard maintenance and cleaning so they’re ready for our riders at any time of the day or night," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in the statement.

The rental car locations will handle regular maintenance such as tire rotation and oil changes; they'll also be responsible for washing and detailing the vehicles, as well as ordering and installing any parts in need of replacement. 

The move seems likely to prove amensalistic for both companies. Waymo is currently in the process of building up its autonomous minivan fleet to around 600 vehicles, which have already begun serving the public in the greater Phoenix area; those vehicles will require regular care and maintenance, especially if operating around the clock. (Krafcik estimates the autonomous minivans could log six times as many miles a year as the average car, according to Bloomberg.) Avis and Budget's joint 11,000 locations worldwide also mean Waymo should have no trouble finding places to service its vehicles as it expands its self-driving test fleet to new markets

For Avis, it gives the company a new way into the burgeoning autonomous vehicle market—a market which some believe could grow to become the backbone of a $7 trillion industry in the next few decades

Indeed, Avis Budget president and CEO Larry De Shon hinted at the potential for the arrangement with Google's self-driving car division in the press release announcing the deal. 

"Not only does this partnership enable us to leverage our current capabilities and assets, but it also allows us to accelerate our knowledge and hands-on experience in an emerging area as Waymo-enabled self-driving cars become available in the marketplace," he said.