Honda is probably one of the only major Japanese automakers to, at least outwardly, shied away from emerging intelligence technologies in the automotive industry. They’ve dabbled in hybrids and lead the charge in hydrogen fuel cells but are relatively quiet when it comes to self-driving or autonomous vehicles.
But could that all about to change with talks of a partnership with Waymo, a company that focuses on exactly that, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet and is basically the new name for what was previously Google’s self driving car project.
The reported potential deal would mean future Hondas will be integrated with autonomous driving hardware and software, both to contribute to the system’s refinement in the earlier stages as well as to be offered in showroom-bought cars in the near future.
Previously, General Motors and Ford had been in similar talks with Google (at the time), but parted ways and now are each researching vehicle autonomy independently.
At this point, both Honda and Waymo are keen to stress that the discussions ongoing are to do with research and not full production cars. Naturally, this could sprout over time to Honda supplying Waymo with vehicles for their fleet of autonomous test vehicles and over the long term will enable Honda to add in self-driving features more easily than if they had been developing their own bespoke version.
Currently, Waymo are operating (and their fleet of autonomous test cars) in four American cities and is active pursuing other partnerships with prominent automakers to help them research and develop the nascent technology and build a common platform for vehicle autonomy. Though, many automakers are skeptical of aiding one company to develop self-driving technology, apprehensive about a single company having an unfair advantage in the future.
The most high-profile of these partnerships so far has been with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with Waymo being supplied with 100 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans which have been outfitted with the sensor and computing array needed to drive itself.