Waymo and Honda May Develop an Autonomous Delivery Vehicle After All
The planned delivery ride will be able to carry both people and commercial goodsby Kirby Garlitos, on
Honda and Waymo are on the verge of developing an autonomous delivery vehicle, a culmination of a partnership that first surfaced in late 2016. The plans for the vehicle involve the two companies designing and developing it from scratch as part of a future delivery service that will include vehicles Alphabet CEO John Krafcik described as being capable of carrying both people and goods, among other capabilities.
The company’s partnership with FCA fall along the same lines, though instead of I-Pace units, Waymo will be securing “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to help expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles
The details of the partnership between Honda and Waymo have evolved since the two companies began discussing the possibility of working together in 2016. It’s unclear what the current parameters of the partnership are, but as John Krafcik revealed, a big part of it will be co-developing an autonomous delivery vehicle that won’t take the form of a traditional car. The CEO of Waymo parent company, Alphabet Co., didn’t divulge any more details about what the car is going to look like or what kind of autonomous technology it’s going to carry.
What’s clear is that this partnership with Honda is unlike the existing deals Waymo has with two other automakers, specifically Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover. The deal with the British brand, for example, involves outsourcing 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace units as part of a forthcoming autonomous ride-hailing service. The company’s partnership with FCA fall along the same lines, though instead of I-Pace units, Waymo will be securing “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to help expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles.
The Honda partnership is different because Waymo will actually have a hand in designing and developing the car that it plans to use for its future autonomous delivery service. According to Krafcik, the planned delivery vehicle could be smaller than traditional delivery trucks and may not have any manual controls, specifically a steering wheel and actual brakes.
With Waymo, it has a company that’s moving forward with its own ambitious plans of becoming a major player in the field of autonomous driving and the services it can venture into.
As far as Honda’s concerned, the partnership with Waymo puts a spotlight on its own efforts in developing autonomous vehicle technology. The Japanese automaker currently doesn’t have any cargo-carrying commercial vehicles in the U.S., so designing one from scratch is the only way it can gain any footprint in that burgeoning segment. With Waymo, it has a company that’s moving forward with its own ambitious plans of becoming a major player in the field of autonomous driving and the services it can venture into.
The autonomous delivery service business may not have the same commercial impact as a ride-hailing service, but it is an important segment to enter to get acclimated to the demands of the business side of autonomous vehicles. Honda rival Toyota is already moving forward with plans to put its e-Palette concept into production. Even startup companies like Nuro are getting in on the fun. There’s also Ford, which already has an ongoing pilot program in Miami that includes delivering Domino’s pizzas, among other delivery services.
If Honda and Waymo want to get into this kind of business, it’s going to do so in each other’s company. That may not be a bad thing for both companies.