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Google, Apple Are Teaming Up With Rental Car Companies For The Future Of Driving

Li Zengwen, a development engineer at Changan Automobile, lifts his hands off the steering wheel as the car is on self-driving mode during a test drive on a highway in Beijing, China, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonLi Zengwen, a development engineer at Changan Automobile, lifts his hands off the steering wheel as the car is on self-driving mode during a test drive on a highway in Beijing, China, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Two of the world’s biggest tech companies are respectively teaming up with two of the world’s largest rental car firms in order to make their self-driving vehicle dreams come true.

Avis Budget Group announced Monday that it is partnering with Google parent company Alphabet, while Apple and Hertz also recently agreed to work together, according to Bloomberg.

Alphabet’s driverless vehicle subsidiary Waymo is reportedly tapping Avis to provide fleet management and general maintenance for a 600-car fleet. Certain Avis locations would be tasked with acting as service centers for the cars when they require routine checkups or repairs, like oil changes. Avis employees, though, are not expected to work on any of the autonomous functionality.

“With members of the public using our growing fleet of self-driving cars, our vehicles need standard maintenance and cleaning so they’re ready for our riders at any time of the day or night,” said John Krafcik, chief executive officer for Waymo, according to an official press release. “With thousands of locations around the world, Avis Budget Group can help us bring our technology to more people, in more places.” (RELATED: Lyft President: In 10 Years No One Will Own A Car In A City)

Avis’ chief leader agrees with its new business partner.

“Not only does this partnership enable us to leverage our current capabilities and assets, but it also allows us to accelerate our knowledge and hands-on experience in an emerging area as Waymo-enabled self-driving cars become available in the marketplace,” Larry De Shon, president and CEO of Avis Budget Group, said in a statement.

Apple, which has been very reticent about it driverless car prospects until more recently, will lease several sport-utility vehicles to Hertz so the car rental company can manage the vehicles.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI [artificial intelligence] projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during an interview with Bloomberg earlier in June. (RELATED: Study: People Will Spend A Lot Of Extra Money For Their Car To Drive Itself)

“Autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us. And uh, we’ll see where it takes us. We are not really saying in a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward that it’s a core technology that we view as very important,” Cook continued.

Both Google and Apple appear excited about autonomous vehicle technology as many consumers realize it could save time and limit the frequency of a number of problems stemming from distracted driving. In fact, according to a study by a team of researchers at Cornell University, some potential customers said they would be prepared to pay more than $10,000 for the automatic functions. (RELATED: Ford Invests $1 Billion In Driverless Cars Expected To Be Ready In Four Years)

In general the researchers “estimate that the average household is willing to pay a significant amount for automation: $3500 for partial automation and $4900 for full automation.”

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