Alphabet's self-driving company Waymo teamed up with Chinese automaker Geely’s premium electric mobility brand, Zeekr, to launch a fully autonomous, all-electric vehicle for ride-hailing purposes.
The vehicles will be designed and developed at Zeekr’s plant in Sweden and later integrated with Waymo’s self-driving technology to be introduced in US’s roads “in the years to come,” said Geely Holding, Volvo’s parent company.
The new vehicle will be designed to be rider-centric from the outset, “setting a new benchmark for autonomous vehicles,” said through a press release Zeeker. The vehicle will offer a fully configurable cabin both with and without driver controls, which will be tailored towards rider requirements for Waymo’s ride-hailing fleet in the US, said the automaker.
The new EV will be a roomy minivan with seating for five people and sliding doors on each side of the vehicle, according to concept images published by Waymo.
Founded in early 2021 as a global technology and mobility brand in Sweden, Zeekr introduced its first model, the 001, in April 2021, with deliveries starting in October 2021. By the end of the year, Zeekr had sold over 2,200 units of its EV in over 150 Chinese cities, reported several media outlets. The automaker now aims to expand across the EU and US markets.
“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,” said Andy An, CEO, Zeekr Technology.
As reported by MBN, autonomous driving startups are in a race to build war chests to continue developing their technology, which is considerably expensive. In 2021, Waymo raised US$2.5 billion in fundings. “There is no greater challenge in artificial intelligence than building and deploying fully autonomous technology at scale," said Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana, Waymo’s co-CEOs.
Waymo is the only fully driverless taxi service operating in the US. Since launching the service a year ago in Phoenix, Arizona, it has driven thousands. The partnership with Zeekr will help Waymo expand its autonomous ride-hailing service amid increased competition, while opening inroads for Geely into the US market, reported Reuters.
While Geely’s participation in the Mexican market only includes Volvo’s cars and trucks divisions, several other Chinese brands have entered the country in the last years, such as MG Motors, BAIC, JAC, JMC and FAW.