Waymo, the self-driving division inside of Alphabet, has partnered with car rental company Avis to manage its fleet of autonomous cars in Phoenix, Arizona.
Avis will be responsible for cleaning the car, managing oil and tire changes, and performing regular safety inspections. It will not manage the specialized hardware, like Waymo’s Lidar sensors.
Waymo expects to send the bulk of its 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Phoenix. The city will be the first place for members of the public to experience Waymo’s self-driving cars, having previously been tested by engineers and other Google employees.
Previously, Waymo has had less than 200 cars on the road at any one time. The minivan expansion is a major point in the timeline for Alphabet’s car project, which is now focused on vehicles that can be mass produced.
Even though the partnership is only for managing the self-driving fleet, pundits suspect that it could turn into a more fruitful agreement in the next few years. Avis owns Zipcar, an on-demand rental service that has around one million members, mostly in urban areas, according to Bloomberg.
It is easy to see a time where Zipcar could offer self-driving options for customers, either by the hour or day. Waymo is already rumored to be in talks with Lyft about a similar arrangement, where it would use the ride-sharing service to offer self-driving options.
Waymo is not the first to work with a car rental service for self-driving cars, Apple partnered with The Hertz Corporation to manage its three Lexus RX450h vehicles, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Car rental services have taken a kicking from the stock market in the past year, as worries over autonomous cars plague the future of these companies. The agreements with Apple and Waymo suggest that there may be light at the end of the tunnel, as shown by the spikes in both companies stock after the announcement.