The global reach, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch research analyst John Murphy, is particularly important as GM tries to launch robotaxi fleets. Murphy wrote in a note to investors that the "partnership may provide GM with access to the Japan market to deploy its Cruise AV fleet, especially ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which it would likely be unable to do without Honda."
In January, GM sought regulatory permission to deploy vehicles without manual controls such as steering wheels and pedals, starting in 2019.
GM President Dan Ammann said next year "remains the objective" but safety will determine when the vehicles launch.
Cruise's self-driving fleet is based on a version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV that operates without manual controls. But Vogt wrote in a post on Medium that Cruise has been quietly prototyping a "groundbreaking new vehicle over the past two years" that does not adhere to a traditional car design.
Vogt told Automotive News "the sky's the limit" as to what can be put into the new purpose-built autonomous vehicle.
A teaser photo of the front end of the vehicle released Wednesday, Oct. 3, shows a rectangular, podlike vehicle with large vertical illuminated headlights. Ammann said the plan is for GM to manufacture the vehicle, though he declined to provide a timeline for production or deployment.
"This takes us into the true future of mobility," Ammann said.
Ammann described the Honda partnership as having "a running start," as the automakers earlier teamed up to develop other advanced technologies, including plans announced four months ago for a new generation of batteries intended to cut costs and accelerate the companies' rollout of electric vehicles. Another GM-Honda partnership has been working on advanced hydrogen fuel cells for deployment in 2020.
He called the relationship between the two companies "long-standing and deeply trustful."