Honda Motor Co. is reportedly talking to Waymo about a partnership regarding self-driving technology. In a statement, the Japanese automaker confirmed that it has entered into formal talks with Waymo. However, a deal has still yet to be reached, and Forbes reports that the talks between Waymo and Honda are in “the early stages.”
On December 13, Waymo first came into existence when Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, decided to turn their self-driving car project into its own independent entity. The official announcement came from Waymo CEO John Krafcik, who unveiled the news during a San Francisco event, as Bloomberg describes. Google has been working on developing self-driving technology for more than half a decade, as Bloomberg also reports.
Through Waymo is less than 2-weeks-old, Honda is not the first automaker to enter into discussions with the company in hopes of reaching a partnership on self-driving technology. Waymo has already begun working with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) December 20, 2016
According to Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press, Fiat Chrysler recently built “100 uniquely outfitted Chrysler Pacifica minivans.” The minivans were then sent over to Waymo, so that they could be equipped with Waymo’s self-driving technology. Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press later reported that the self-driving Pacifica minivan will be making its grand premiere at the North American International Auto Show on January 8, 2017.
According to the statement from Honda, the company had previously set a goal of putting self-driving cars on the road “sometime around 2020.” Honda claims that it is part of the company’s larger goal to help create “a collision free society.”
As the Associated Press reports, one of the arguments from advocates of self-driving technology, including Krafcik, has been that autonomous vehicles will actually be safer. Given that computers “don’t get distracted or drunk” or “ignore” basic “rules” of driving, like a person might, proponents of autonomous vehicles argue that they can help to significantly reduce the number of accidents, the Associated Press reports.
Honda claims that as opposed to just going it alone, this “technical collaboration” could give the company a chance to explore a “different technological approach” when it comes to making their vision a reality. However, as the Guardian describes, the collaboration and potential agreement with Waymo does not mean that Honda will forgo its desire to develop a self-driving system of its own. Honda also claims that these talks present an opportunity for each of the two companies to acquire knowledge regarding “the integration of Waymo’s self-driving sensors, software and computing platform into Honda vehicles.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 22, 2016
If the talks go well and progress beyond the initial stages, it appears as though Honda might follow in Chrysler’s footsteps and deliver select vehicles to Waymo. The vehicles that Honda would send Waymo would join the “existing fleet,” which the aforementioned Pacificas are currently a part of.
“As part of the discussion on technical collaboration, Honda could initially provide Waymo with vehicles modified to accommodate Waymo’s self-driving technology. These vehicles would join Waymo’s existing fleet, which are currently being tested across four U.S. cities.”
Honda also explains that their engineers from Honda R&D, which Forbes describes as the company’s “research and development subsidiary,” would then work in close collaboration with Waymo engineers.
“If both parties agree to enter into a formal agreement, Honda R&D engineers based in Silicon Valley, California and Tochigi, Japan, would work closely with Waymo engineers based in Mountain View, California and Novi, Michigan.”
The autonomous vehicle phenomenon has quickly become a hot topic, and it will likely continue to be for some time. There has been recent news of the ridesharing service Uber testing driverless cars. There has also been some talk of other automakers setting goals too soon unveil their own self-driving technology or, in some cases, announcing that their vehicles are already technically capable of self-driving.
It almost seems as though there is more news regarding autonomous vehicles each day. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Honda’s talks with Waymo and if other automakers may soon jump on board as well.
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