Google's self-driving car unit Waymo is turning to car rental giant Avis Budget Group for support of its growing autonomous vehicle fleet.
The companies announced a multi-year agreement Monday in which Avis will store and service Waymo's 600-vehicle fleet of Chrysler self-driving vans at select rental facilities. Vehicle maintenance will include basic services like cleaning, oil changes, tire rotations, and ordering and installing parts.
A public trial of the partnership is taking place in Phoenix through Waymo's early rider program, the company's first commercial self-driving car service. As the trail expands, Avis locations will be reworked to accommodate Waymo's vehicles and the additional service needs they require. According to Bloomberg, Waymo will maintain ownership of the vehicles and pay Avis an undisclosed amount for its services.
In a statement, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said Avis and its thousands of locations will allow Waymo to "bring our technology to more people, in more places."
"With members of the public using our growing fleet of self-driving cars, our vehicles need standard maintenance and cleaning so they're ready for our riders at any time of the day or night," Krafcik said.
More broadly, the deal gives Avis -- which operates the Avis and Budget rental car business as well as Zipcar -- a clear entry point into the emerging autonomous vehicle space and opens the door to fleet-management-as-a-service. The Waymo partnership also provides hands-on training to Avis' service technicians at a time when more self-driving car types are entering the marketplace.
Avis has been investing heavily in information technology and data to revamp its business and customer experience. The company is developing a demand fleet pricing yield management system that uses algorithms to automate price adjustments. It's also recently launched a new Avis.com platform and mobile apps to handle payments.
As for Waymo, the partnership gives the company a direct line to consumers who may be curious about its technology, as rivals Tesla and Uber race to put self-driving cars on the road. It also could help Waymo launch a large-scale transportation service using self-driving vehicles.