Almost simultaneously Apple and Waymo approached car rental companies, but not for the same reasons. After Google subsidiary Waymo was founded in December 2016 the project seemed to make slow progress as no further news emerged. Meanwhile Waymo is stepping on the gas cooperating with car rental company AVIS to get its autonomous vehicles on the road.
The Waymo-Avis-FCA Connection
The first vehicles that were modified and automated by Waymo derived from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and had already been ordered before the company foundation. Waymo introduced a new sensor package which included cheap Lidar. Latter was the basis for the lawsuit between Waymo and Uber, in which former Google employee Anthony Levandowski was accused of stealing business secrets. By now Levandowski was dismissed by Uber.
In May Waymo confirmed the successful completion of five million testing kilometers and the cooperation with mobility service provider Lyft. Before, in April, Waymo hired 500 test drivers in order to test the technology under real conditions.
The success led Waymo to a cooperation with AVIS - 600 vehicles of the Chrysler model Pacifica have been ordered with the aim to be used in Phoenix, Arizona and the egg-shaped Google cars disappeared from the roads. The location Phoenix is no coincidence, Waymo has been testing in the area for a while and possesses the map data.
Apple is working with Hertz
But not only Google is planning to bring their autonomous cars to the streets. Apple also contacted a car rental services provider, but followed a different strategy than Waymo. The company ordered cars to test them on the streets.
Apple did not confirm the goal behind the move, but it seems to be clear that the six Lexus RX450h SUVs will be used for testing purposes. Apparently the cars have been leased via Hertz. Apple submitted a license entry to the corresponding authorities which is another strong indicator for their intention of carrying out autonomous driving tests. What’s interesting: Google also used Lexus models to launch their Project “Selfdriving Car” back then.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de