Renault-Nissan team up with Waymo for driverless mobility services

Waymo vehicles wait to ferry passengers at a Google conference last year. (AFP pic/Getty Images) 

PARIS: Renault and Nissan said Thursday they had teamed up with Waymo, the autonomous vehicle unit of Google-parent company Alphabet, to explore the development of driverless mobility services in their home markets.

With the high cost of manufacturing driverless vehicles, auto firms are looking primarily at using them for use as transportation as a service such as currently provided by taxi and ride-hailing firms.

“The agreement is designed to bring together the strengths of each party and expand expertise by assessing market opportunities,” the firms said in a statement.

Under the exclusive agreement, the three will work together to research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to providing driverless transportation-as-a-service offerings in France and Japan.

Together with their third alliance partner Mitsubishi, Renault and Nissan make up the world’s top-selling automobile group.

Waymo is a leading developer of self-driving technology whose vehicles have logged more than 16 million kilometres on public roads.

Renault and Nissan plan to create joint ventures in their home markets dedicated to developing driverless mobility services in their home markets of France and Japan.

The agreement with Waymo does not include the operation of such services, but a Renault-Nissan alliance executive said it wasn’t excluded that the US company could take a stake in these firms.

The three companies also left open the possibility of expanding their cooperation to analysing the market for driverless mobility services in other countries, notably China.

The Renault-Nissan alliance has been under severe strain since the shock arrest last November in Japan on charges of financial misconduct of its then-chief executive Carlos Ghosn, who built up the alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi into an industry giant selling some 10.8 million vehicles last year.

Tensions were further aggravated by an offer from Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) to merge with Renault that failed.