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Waymo just signed a deal to make self-driving cars for use in France and Japan

Key Points
  • Waymo has signed a deal with Renault and Nissan to develop self-driving cars and trucks for use in France, Japan and possibly other countries in Asia.
  • It's the first agreement Waymo has signed to provide its technology and services to automakers working to build their own self-driving cars.
  • General Motors' subsidiary Cruise is expected to launch its first autonomous vehicle this year.
Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. on January 8, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Waymo has signed a deal with Renault and Nissan to develop self-driving cars and trucks for use in France, Japan and possibly other countries throughout Europe and much of Asia, the autonomous car company announced Thursday.

It's the first agreement Waymo has signed to provide its technology and services to automakers working to build their own self-driving vehicles. The deal doesn't extend to China, the companies said.

Waymo, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, is testing a small fleet of autonomous vehicles just outside of Phoenix. Those vehicles, modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans, are part of Waymo's work to develop autonomous ride-share services. With Renault and Nissan, Waymo's relationship will be more as a provider of technology and services that each automaker will use as they develop their own self-driving vehicles.

"Our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan and other countries," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement.

Renault and Nissan — which have a close yet strained relationship since the October arrest and detention in Japan of former Nissan chairman/ex-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn — are putting aside their differences when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

The companies said they're creating a joint venture companies to focus exclusively on driverless mobility services.

Renault CEO Thierry Bollore said in a statement that the deal will put his company, "at the forefront of driverless mobility new business streams in our key strategic markets."

Hiroto Saikawa, president and CEO of Nissan, echoed that confidence.

"Our expertise in the global automotive industry and expertise in strategic partnership will enable us to explore opportunities to grow our portfolio and deliver new value to customers with Waymo, the recognized leader in this space," he said.

Waymo, formerly known as the Google Self Driving Car project, is considered a leader in autonomous vehicles, analysts and technology executives say.

That lead, however, is far from safe. General Motors' subsidiary Cruise is expected to launch its first autonomous vehicle this year. Uber is also working to develop autonomous ride-share vehicles.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that the deal could extend Waymo's reach throughout much of Asia but not China.