Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo is partnering with Chinese automaker Geely to create a fleet of all-electric, self-driving robotaxis.
The cars will be designed in Sweden (where Geely owns Swedish carmaker Volvo) and will be adapted from Geely’s all-electric five-door Zeekr. Waymo will then outfit the cars with the hardware and software necessary for autonomous driving. Waymo said in a blog post that it plans to deploy the vehicles in the US as part of its existing fleet of self-driving robotaxis some time “in the years to come.”
Concept images of finished vehicle shared by Waymo show a car that is designed specifically for autonomous ride-hailing trips. It has a flat floor, low step-in height, and B-pillarless design for easy entry and exit, as well as sliding doors, reclining seats, and plenty of headroom. Waymo says future models will have an interior without steering wheel or pedals — just a screen (presumably to let riders check on the progress of their journey).
These are just concept images, though, and might not necessarily reflect the finished vehicles Geely and Waymo will eventually put on the roads. It’s notable that Waymo’s concepts make the car look much more like a minivan, while Geely’s Zeekr 001 has a design that’s more like a cross between a station wagon, a shooting brake, and an SUV.
News of the deal between Geely and Waymo is another demonstration of just how busy the auto world is with partnerships and collaborations as self-driving and electric tech shakes up old incumbents. Waymo has partnered with Stellantis and Jaguar Land Rover to deploy and develop its autonomous capabilities, while Geely plans to take Volvo public as an all-electric company, after doing the same with its new Polestar brand.