Japanese car and bike builder Honda is the second major company to announce a partnership with Google's newly spun-off self-driving car company as a means of accelerating progress on a production-ready autonomous vehicle.
Just three days after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled a fleet of specially adapted Chrysler Pacifica minivans that are about to join Waymo's self-driving test fleet, Honda has confirmed that it's entered "formal discussions" with Google's autonomous vehicle technology company.
The ultimate aim of the potential partnership will be to offer consumers safety-focused next-generation autonomous driving technology in 2020/2021 model year production cars.
Honda has already invested heavily in this area via its dedicated Silicon Valley R&D center. Opened officially in July 2015 with the aim of fast-tracking high-tech concepts into real-world products, features and services, it's already developed an automated highway driving system.
That's why the company says that any collaboration with Waymo would also involve Honda engineers based in both California and Tochigi, Japan, the idea being that the two firms would be able to compare notes.
Though myriad car and tech companies are racing to be the first with a viable self-driving vehicle platform -- from BMW to Volvo -- every automaker has stressed that this is new territory and that no one knows for sure which system or systems will ultimately prove to be the optimum solution to delivering zero-fatality highway driving.
The announcement also seems to confirm that Google is scaling back its own autonomous vehicle ambitions. Though the company has been developing systems for over eight years and its autonomous fleet has clocked up the equivalent of 300 years' constant driving, it is now increasingly likely that the company wants to be a provider -- licensing integrated software and hardware -- rather than a manufacturer building cars that would have to compete with those from an industry established for over a century.
Its freshly spun-out firm Waymo -- officially established on December 13 -- even bills itself as a "self-driving technology company."