Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo unit will add an electric shuttle built by Zeekr to its U.S. fleet, the self-driving technology company said on Tuesday.
Waymo's fleet currently relies on Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Pace crossovers, though unlike those vehicles, which were originally designed to be driven by a human for private use, the Zeekr shuttle will be designed specifically for a self-driving service.
As a result, the shuttle will be devoid of a steering wheel and pedals. The cabin will also be easier to get in and out of thanks to a B-pillarless design and a low floor, and occupants can look forward to luxuries like reclining seats, screens and chargers at easy reach.
Zeekr shuttle for Waymo self-driving service
Zeekr is Chinese auto giant Geely's new global brand for premium electric vehicles. Zeekr's first vehicle, the 001 hot hatch, went into production in October at a newly constructed plant in China. The 001 is based on Geely's dedicated EV platform known as SEA, and it's likely that this platform will also be used for the shuttle to be supplied to Waymo. Zeekr in a statement said the shuttle will use an “open-source mobility architecture.”
Waymo hasn't said how many shuttles it has ordered or when the first one will be delivered. However, we know Waymo will be responsible for installing its Waymo Driver self-driving system in the shuttles before they are added to the Waymo fleet. The system is ranked at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability as it can drive on its own for extended periods, though only with restrictions. Level 5 is the ultimate goal, as this represents a system that can drive at the same level as a human.
Waymo's self-driving service, known as Waymo One, has been successfully run in parts of Phoenix for the past couple of years. Last summer, the service was expanded to parts of San Francisco, though only on a trial basis. Waymo is also developing a self-driving delivery service, known as Waymo Via.