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Waymo Adding Electric Geely Vans to Its Robotaxi Fleet

Alan Ohnsman wrote . . . . . . . . .

Electric Zeekr vans are coming to the U.S. as part of Waymo’s robotaxi fleet. WAYMO, GEELY
Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous driving unit, is expanding its global auto partnerships to include China’s Geely Automotive and plans to integrate the carmaker’s purpose-built electric robotaxi vans into its U.S. fleet.

The vans from Geely’s new Zeekr brand were designed in Sweden and are to join the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and electric Jaguar i-Pace SUVs already used in Waymo One ridehail programs in suburban Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay region. The Mountain View, California-based company isn’t saying how many of the battery-powered models it’s adding and when they go into service–though it may not be soon.

“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,” Waymo said. The vehicles are designed for use in autonomous ride services, featuring flat floors and wider-than-usual door openings for easy entry and exit by passengers. Eventually, Waymo One riders will “experience an interior without steering wheel and pedals, and with plenty of headroom, leg room and reclining seats, screens and chargers within arm’s reach, and an easy to configure and comfortable vehicle cabin,” the company said.

Geely is the latest automotive partner for Waymo, which already works with Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar and is developing autonomous semi-trucks with Daimler. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, founded by billionaire Li Shufu, is the parent of Geely Auto and among China’s largest carmakers. It launched the Zeekr brand in 2021 to compete with Tesla in China and also owns Volvo Car Group. The Zeekr van follows the trend of utilitarian electric pod shuttles that include the Origin from General Motors-backed Cruise, Local Motors’ Olli and Amazon’s Zoox robotaxi.

Waymo didn’t provide additional details about its new relationship with Geely.

The company operates the longest-running autonomous tech program and has been an industry benchmark for over a decade, starting out as the Google Self-Driving Car Project. It has offered an autonomous ride service near Phoenix for the past few years, where passengers can hail vehicles that arrive with no human behind the wheel. The company this month said one of its I-Pace models accidentally struck a pedestrian in San Francisco, though it was apparently being driven by a human at the time and not the autonomous system.

Source : Forbes

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