Waymo Teams With China’s Zeekr EV Brand For Autonomous Cars

Waymo Teams With China’s Zeekr EV Brand For Autonomous Cars

Alphabet’s autonous-driving branch Waymo has turned to Geely’s premium electric car brand Zeekr to build self-driving, ride-sharing vehicles, starting with a minivan, it was confirmed today.

Waymo planned to make the One Fleet announcement during January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but has pulled out of event due to fears of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Instead, both companies revealed today that Waymo has teamed with China’s Zeekr brand for cars to be used for ride-sharing in the US for “years to come”.

While there is no announced jump-off timetable, the partnership showed off Zeekr’s unnamed minivan, which was designed at its China Europe Vehicle Technology Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Gothenburg is the home of Volvo, which is also controlled by Geely.)

The Zeekr EV has drawn praise from designers on social media, with many insisting its sliding doors and large central entry space is perfect for ride-sharing, while its pronounced downward rear side window adds vision and space.

“Zeekr was born on the ideals of equality, diversity, and sustainability,” Zeer Technology CEO Andy An insisted.

“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,” he said.

Zeekr was only founded earlier this year as an EV start up under the same Geely umbrella that delivers its eponymous Geely car brand, Lynk&Co, Volvo, Proton, Lotus and Polestar. Its first car, the Zeekr 001, was launched in April.

The collaboration with Waymo will see Zeekr taking the lead in designing and developing the open-source vehicle architecture, with Waymo then integrating its Waymo Driver technology into each vehicle as it arrives in the US.

The Zeekr ride-sharing minivan comes with driving controls, but can be configured without them, and it is expected to dominate the Waymo One fleet.

Waymo’s ride-sharing fleet is based in Phoenix, Arizona and contains both EVs (the Jaguar I-Pace) and hybrids (the Chrysler Pacifica).

The arrangement with Zeekr won’t effect its long-term arrangements with Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis, a Waymo spokesman insisted.