TOKYO -- The Nissan Motor-Renault alliance has partnered with American autonomous vehicle developer Waymo to explore offering self-driving transportation services in Japan and France.
The trio have signed an exclusive agreement to look into the details of services encompassing both passenger and freight transport, and Nissan and Renault will form joint ventures in both countries as part of the effort. Mitsubishi Motors, the third member of the Nissan-Renault alliance, will not initially be involved in the Waymo project but may participate later.
Major corporations across the globe are racing to develop self-driving technology. Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet, is a leader in the field. The Nissan-Renault alliance is one of the world's leading sellers of new automobiles.
Relations between Nissan and Renault had been strained by a power struggle since the November arrest of then-Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Differences emerged over who should succeed him and changes to the Japanese automaker's management structure. Renault has a 43% stake in Nissan, making it the top shareholder and giving it great sway over the alliance. Nissan, for its part, has been determined to maintain its independence.
But developing self-driving technology and associated services will require massive investment and broad know-how. The duo are moving to cooperate in not only autonomous driving, but also the wider field of mobility as a service.
The market for mobility as a service, defined as shared on-demand vehicles, will grow to $1.4 trillion in the U.S., the European Union and China combined by 2030 from $87 billion in 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers has projected. Alliances in next-generation vehicles and associated services are forming across the world. Toyota Motor and SoftBank Corp. have created a joint venture in the field, and Honda Motor has a partnership with General Motors. In Europe, Germany's Daimler and BMW have combined their self-driving efforts.
On California public roads, which have become the global test bed for autonomous driving technology, Silicon Valley's Waymo has the most experience by far. The developer already has tie-ups with other automakers, but mostly in providing test vehicles and other limited dealings. The arrangement with Nissan and Renault will be deeper and aimed at the eventual launch of actual services.
Mobility services are now limited to taxis and the like. Once fully autonomous vehicles become a reality, the content and efficiency of the offerings will take a great leap.