Your Next Rental Might Drive Itself, Courtesy of Waymo

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As Google's self-driving cars march toward maturity, they've become increasingly mundane. They started off as futuristic cartoon-like pods and then became Lexus SUVs before transitioning into their latest iteration—Chrysler minivans—which are now set to be managed by Avis, the same company that rents you nondescript white sedans at the airport.

Avis and Google's sister company Waymo confirmed the deal on Monday, according to Bloomberg. The agreement will see the rental car company manage a fleet of minivans in Phoenix, where Waymo is currently operating a ride-hailing service with volunteer members of the public.

If you live in or around Phoenix, you can sign up to be a guinea pig for Waymo's test drives, which will take you anywhere you need to go for no charge and include a human driver as a safety backup (and now presumably more frequently vacuumed carpets and clean windows, thanks to Avis).

Waymo's deal with Avis is limited: it's non-exclusive and confined to Phoenix, according to Bloomberg. But it represents great potential for the rest of America to get a taste of self-driving technology. Through its Zipcar subsidiary, Avis cars are available for hourly rentals in residential neighborhoods nationwide—not just at airports, train stations, and hotels—and Waymo is reportedly eyeing those cars as potential future hosts for its self-driving technology.


  • On Self-Driving Cars, Apple Has Some Catching Up to DoOn Self-Driving Cars, Apple Has Some Catching Up to Do

"One of the wonderful things about partnerships like this is that they are open," Waymo CEO John Krafcik told Bloomberg.

Google spent years working on self-driving cars before spinning the project off into Waymo, a division of Alphabet, last year. That means it has a considerable head start over the fledgling self-driving efforts of its Silicon Valley competitor Apple. Apple CEO Tim Cook last week confirmed those efforts, explaining in an interview with Bloomberg that autonomous driving is "probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on."

Apple does have one leg up on Waymo, however: it has been using Avis's archrival Hertz to manage its fleet of Lexus SUVs. A Hertz subsidiary is listed on Apple's licenses to test self-driving cars on public roads in California, Bloomberg reported on Monday, although the company declined to comment.

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