Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous driving technology arm, is partnering with Chinese automaker Geely to build an all-electric, self-driving ride-hailing vehicle. The companies will integrate Waymo Driver, Waymo’s AV system, into Geely’s Zeekr vehicles for use in U.S. markets “in the years to come.”
While Waymo is not providing a specific time frame for either the start of production or when these vehicles are expected to hit the streets, the partnership signals that Waymo is pursuing a multi-platform approach to OEM partnerships. Waymo’s current ride-hail fleet is made up of Jaguar I-Paces and Chrysler Pacifica hybrids, which provide autonomous rides in Phoenix, Arizona. The company has also expanded its partnership with Stellantis, which owns Fiat Chrysler automobiles, to include local delivery services. Waymo’s plans with Geely should not have an effect on the company’s existing partnerships, according to a Waymo spokesperson.
Zeekr, a luxury EV brand that Geely established in March, launched its first premium model, a sleek crossover, last month in China. The Waymo version, which renderings depict with more of a minivan look, are being custom designed and engineered in Gothenburg, Sweden. Once they are shipped to the U.S., Waymo will integrate its Driver, which includes hardware like lidar, sensors and cameras, as well as software, into the vehicles and deploy them within its ride-hailing fleet, says the company.
The Zeekr vehicles are designed to be “rider-first,” with “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,” according to a Waymo blog post. The interior, which will not include a steering wheel or pedals in anticipation of a fully driverless future, will instead have plenty of head and legroom to stretch out and relax, with reclining seats and screens and chargers within arm’s reach.
Other AV companies, like Cruise and Argo AI, have also revealed plans for purpose-built ride-hailing EVs. Last year, Cruise unveiled its Origin, which is designed for ridesharing, and in September, Argo and Volkswagen revealed the plans for a jointly developed autonomous van, the ID Buzz AD, which should launch commercially in Hamburg, Germany as part of an autonomous ride-pool system in 2025.