Waymo late on Wednesday revealed its new robotaxi based on a platform developed by Geely and its Zeekr EV brand.
Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving division first announced plans for the robotaxi in late 2021, and at Wednesday’s reveal the company said the vehicle will be deployed in the Waymo One robotaxi service in “the years to come.”
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, and Waymo has confirmed the next stop will be Los Angeles. Waymo is also developing a self-driving delivery service, known as Waymo Via.
Designed specifically for fully autonomous ride-hailing.
— Waymo (@Waymo) November 17, 2022
Waymo currently relies on Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Pace crossovers for its Waymo One service, though those vehicles were originally designed to be driven by a human for private use. The new robotaxi has been designed specifically for a self-driving service, providing a number of advantages for companies like Waymo.
The robotaxi’s platform is a variation of Geely’s SEA dedicated EV platform. This one is designed for mobility services, and is branded the SEA-M platform. Key traits include flexible seating options, a flat floor, sliding doors, a missing B-pillar for easy ingress and egress, and a robust electrical backbone to make connectivity and hardware integration easy.
While Waymo’s robotaxi will be devoid of a steering wheel and pedals, vehicles based on the SEA-M platform have the option to add these back. The NHTSA no longer requires self-driving cars to have such traditional equipment as long as it meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.
Waymo robotaxi based on the Zeekr SEA-M platform
The actual self-driving system for Waymo’s robotaxi will be Waymo’s own Waymo Driver. 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.
Zeekr hasn’t said where the robotaxis will be built, though Geely has a new plant in China established for production of vehicles based on the SEA platform.
Separately, Zeekr is developing its own vehicle with Level 4 self-driving capability in a partnership with Intel’s Mobileye self-driving division. The targeted launch is 2024.