Geely-owned Zeekr partners with Waymo for self-driving EV

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Chinese brand will develop passenger-centric EV in Sweden before Waymo installs autonomous tech in the US.

Zeekr, the new premium-focused EV brand from China’s Geely Group, has partnered with Californian technology firm Waymo to develop an autonomous ride-hailing vehicle.

Previewed in official renders, the electric MPV is designed for use by the nascent Waymo One ride-hailing platform, which currently operates in Phoenix, Arizona, and is testing in San Francisco.

The vehicle – as yet unnamed – has now entered development at Geely’s China Europe Vehicle Technology Centre (CEVT) in Gothenburg, Sweden. It will use what Geely calls “a new proprietary and open-source mobility architecture”, but it is unclear if this is related to the SEA platform which underpins Zeekr’s debut model, the 001 shooting brake.

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When development of the vehicle itself is complete, Waymo will install its autonomous hardware, which uses Lidar, cameras, radar and computer processors to virtually map its surroundings. Described as “the world’s most experienced driver”, the so-called Waymo Driver has undergone millions of kays of testing on public roads in more than 13 US states.

The self-driving vehicle is, thus, designed with a focus on the passengers, and will offer a “fully configurable” cabin either with or without driver controls installed.

The companies have yet to reveal any further technical details of the project, and have not confirmed a planned date or target markets for its launch.

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Zeekr CEO Andy An said: “Zeekr was born on the ideals of equality, diversity, and sustainability. 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.”

Zeekr and Waymo have announced their collaboration plans just two weeks after London-based EV start up Arrival revealed a similarly passenger-centric EV it is designing for – and in partnership with – Uber drivers.

Unlike Zeekr and Waymo’s vehicle, however, the Arrival Car is intended to be chiefly operated by a human driver, and could enter production as soon as 2023.

Felix Page

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