Waymo, Google’s arm for its self-driving effort, is partnering with Chinese automobile giant Geely to produce a fleet of self-driving robotaxis. The cars are purely electric.
The robotaxis are based on Geely’s electric model, the Zeekr. The cars will be made in Sweden, where Geely owns the iconic Volvo brand, after which Waymo will outfit them with the hardware and software required for driverless operation.
The blog post that Waymo used to announce the partnership has pictures of the car concept, with one showing the car around what looks like the famed Golden Gate bridge in the U.S. However, the vehicle, which has a minivan appearance, is designed for ride-hailing without human drivers. It comes with a flat floor that rides close to the ground. The doors slide in opposite directions and open wide enough for easy entry and exit.
There is plenty of headroom and legroom for the riders who can lean back in the reclining seats. Since it is an autonomous vehicle, there is no steering wheel in sight. However, riders can monitor the trip’s progress on a central screen.
The roof is laden with presumably the unit that monitors the car’s environment in real-time.
These are just photos of concept designs, and the final vehicle may look different. Also, the car looks remarkably different from the Zeekr 001, which looks like Geely couldn’t make up its mind about whether to make a station wagon or an SUV.
Waymo has collaborated in the past with Stellantis and Jaguar Land Rover for cars that bear its autonomous tech. Meanwhile, its new deal with Geely shows Waymo is willing to work with not only the old names in automobile manufacturers.
On its own part, Geely is preparing to make Volvo an exclusively electric vehicle maker, similar to the Polestar brand.
If you are eager to see the new Waymo/Geely car on American roads, the company says it will introduce the vehicles in its fleet in the years to come.
Reproduced below is Waymo’s press release:
“Over a decade into our journey building the World’s Most Experienced Driver, we’ve partnered with some of the world’s leading automakers to deploy our fully autonomous technology as we help people and things get where they’re going. So, we’re pleased to announce our latest OEM collaboration with Geely, a top global auto manufacturer. Waymo will integrate our Waymo Driver into a version of the new mobility-focused, all-electric Zeekr vehicle, designed in Sweden specially for autonomous ride-hailing. We’re committed to expanding access to sustainable transportation, and deploying these fully autonomous, electric ride-hailing vehicles in the U.S. is an important step as we electrify our Waymo One fleet.
“Over years to come, we’ll integrate our Waymo Driver into the transportation-as-a-service (TaaS)-optimized Zeekr vehicle designed to prioritize the comfort, convenience, and preferences of Waymo One riders. This rider-first vehicle features a flat floor for more accessible entry, easy ingress and egress thanks to a B-pillarless design, low step-in height, generous head and legroom, and fully adjustable seats. While ensuring a level of safety consistent with U.S. federal vehicle standards – our Waymo One riders will one day experience an interior without steering wheel and pedals, and with plenty of headroom, legroom and reclining seats, screens and chargers within arm’s reach, and an easy to configure and comfortable vehicle cabin.
“We’ll begin to introduce these all-electric, rider-first, fully autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads within our Waymo One fleet in the years to come.”