Thursday 22 December 2016

Honda In A Talk Over Self-Driving Cars With Alphabet's Waymo


Honda and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, are in formal talks to develop self-driving vehicles, the Japanese carmaker said on Thursday, months after the US firm signed a deal to use its technology in Fiat Chrysler minivans.

The prospect of a deal between Honda and Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo, which was spun off from Google earlier this month, is part of attempts by some car manufacturers to address the high cost of developing reliable automation software by teaming up with technology firms rather than going it alone.

Honda, however, said any collaboration with Waymo did not mean it was abandoning efforts to develop its own autonomous driving system.

While its driverless project has not garnered as much attention as similar plans by bigger firms such as Toyota, Honda unveiled a prototype driverless car in June and has said it hopes to see the fully autonomous vehicle appear on motorways in four years’ time.

“In addition to these on-going (in-house) efforts, this technical collaboration with Waymo could allow Honda research and development to explore a different technological approach to bring fully self-driving technology to market,” Honda said in a statement.

If a deal is reached, Honda engineers in Japan and Silicon Valley would work with their Waymo counterparts to marry their vehicles with Waymo’s software, in the same way as Fiat Chrysler has done with its Pacifica minivans.

The vehicles would then join road tests of Waymo cars already being conducted in four US cities, according to Kyodo news.

Waymo said it was “looking forward to exploring opportunities to collaborate with Honda to advance fully self-driving technology and make our roads safer”.

The potential deal with Honda, Japan’s third-biggest carmaker, would help shore up Google’s position at the forefront of self-driving technology. The tech firm has been developing software and sensors since 2009 and testing its autonomous cars on public roads for several years.

Robot Taxi, a Japanese collaboration between a developer of automated vehicle technology and a mobile internet firm, began testing driverless taxis in the town of Fujisawa earlier this year.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said he wants to see fleets of self-driving cars on Tokyo’s roads by the time the city hosts the 2020 Olympics.



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