SAN FRANCISCO/TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co Ltd said it is in talks to supply vehicles for Alphabet Inc’s Waymo to test self-driving technology, in the latest instance of a carmaker teaming up with a tech firm to supplement its own automation efforts.
The talks, which come just one week after Waymo became an independent company, could see Honda become the tech firm’s second partner after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed in May to add the technology to its minivans.
The moves illustrate how carmakers, faced with the high cost of developing autonomous driving tech in-house, are separating into those going it alone, such as General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, and those teaming up to spread the costs.
Honda already has tie-ups with tech startups, notably with Southeast Asian ride-hailing service Grab.
It has been working alone to develop cars which can drive themselves on highways by 2020 while stressing vehicles will always require drivers. But it said was interested in the approach of Google’s self-driving car project - now Waymo - to develop fully autonomous, driverless cars.
“There’s only so much technology a company can develop while focusing on one specific approach,” Honda spokesman Teruhiko Tatebe told Reuters. “By approaching it from multiple angles it’s possible to come up with new innovations quicker.”
At the same time, technology firms such as Waymo have started to form partnerships with automakers to finally get their technology - seven years in the making in the case of Waymo - into more vehicles.
“You’ve got Google, which is engaging with another automaker to apply its technology into different vehicles and different platforms,” said senior analyst Jeremy Carlson at researcher IHS Automotive. “From Honda’s perspective, you get a close-up look at some of the most capable technology in the industry today.”
Honda has been developing automated driving functions and ways to connect vehicles to the internet, as well as artificial intelligence to enable vehicles to “think” while driving.
With Waymo, Honda said it may provide vehicles modified to accommodate the startup’s software - as Fiat Chrysler has done with its Chrysler Pacifica minivans. It also said there was potential for “close” cooperation between Honda and Waymo engineers.
A Waymo representative said the company was “looking forward to exploring opportunities to collaborate with Honda.”
Reporting by Alexandria Sage and Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Christopher Cushing