Rental car companies have done virtually nothing to adapt to a changing future of car ownership, yet tech companies seem to think Avis and Hertz hold the keys to driverless car success.
Apple will lease six cars from Hertz to test its long-anticipated autonomous driving software, according to Bloomberg. This mirrors a larger scale deal between Waymo, Google’s self-driving unit, and Avis also announced on Monday.
From the story:
The rental car firm will service and store Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, where the parent of Google is testing a ride-hailing service with volunteer members of the public. Waymo will own the vehicles and pay Avis for its service, an arrangement that is set for multiple years but not exclusive. The companies would not share financial terms.
Avis gives Waymo a potential asset that rivals like the major automakers and Uber Technologies Inc already have: a sprawling network of traditional cars and customers that could be transformed into an autonomous transport service over time.
Avis owns Zipcar, the on-demand rental service with over one million members, largely in urban centers. The new deal is limited to Waymo’s vehicles in Phoenix, where it started its first pilot service in April after nearly a decade of research.
The news of two tech giants partnering with big rental car fleets comes after longtime confusion by rental car companies in the coming era of autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing. Hertz and Avis shares have declined 98 percent and 9 percent, respectively, over the last year.
The two made small moves to try and compete with car-sharing giants, like when Avis bought Zipcar, a less expensive, short-term rental model for urban areas, and Hertz partnered with Uber to provide rentals to drivers. Yet the coming autonomous car revolution leaves still leaves the $75 billion industry in limbo.
Time will tell if Apple and Google’s self driving tech could be enough to keep rental car companies afloat.
In the meantime, the rental car companies are managing autonomous car fleets—the jokes practically write themselves.