Waymo, the autonomous driving technology company under Alphabet Inc (Google’s parent company), has announced a new partnership with Geely’s premium EV brand Zeekr. The carmaker will be building new fully-electric vehicles for Waymo, which will be used as part of the Waymo One autonomous ride-hailing services in the United States.
The new purpose-built EV is being developed at Geely’s China Europe Vehicle Technology Centre (CEVT) in Gothenburg, Sweden, and is said to be built with a “mobility-focused” design, incorporating the Waymo Driver autonomous technology at its core.
The concept vehicle that was shown off alongside the press release takes on the silhouette of an MPV-like vehicle. Waymo’s autonomous driving sensors are also mostly crammed onto the roof, resulting in a clean and futuristic-looking bodywork.
However, in the interest of prioritising the “comfort, convenience, and preferences of Waymo One riders”, the B-pillars seems to have been completely removed, resulting in a large aperture for easy ingress and egress – especially when paired with the low flat floor and sliding suicide doors.
This being a completely autonomous EV vehicle, there’s also no steering wheel and centre tunnel/control stack to be seen, freeing up valuable space for the passengers. The seats also look to be reclinable (at least on the front row), and there’s also easy access charging ports for your various electronic devices.
However, Geely says that the cars can also be configured with driver controls, depending on the needs of Waymo’s fleet (and regulators). When optioned without, like the one in the photos, the only user interface within the cabin is a large touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, presumably for the purpose of inputting your destinations and accessing other infotainment controls.
Waymo is already offering autonomous ride-hailing services in Phoenix, Arizona, and San Francisco, using specially-modified vehicles based on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and the Jaguar I-Pace EV.
Waymo did not mention when the Zeekr-built cars will begin operations, but said that they will arrive on US roads “in the years to come”.
Zeekr Technology CEO Andy An added, “By becoming a strategic partner and vehicle supplier to the Waymo One fleet, we will be able to share our experience, ideals and provide our expertise in collaborating on a fully electric vehicle that fits Waymo’s requirements for this rapidly expanding segment in the global market for sustainable travel.”