Developed in partnership with Zeekr, the vehicle will be based on Zeekr’s new SEA-M platform

Graham Hope

November 21, 2022

4 Min Read
Image shows Waymo's new, custom-built robotaxi developed in partnership with Zeekr

Waymo has revealed its new, custom-built robotaxi at an event in Los Angeles.

The company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, was celebrating its imminent arrival in LA – and took the opportunity to showcase its new vehicle, developed in partnership with Chinese brand Zeekr at the latter’s research and development facility in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The unveiling marks a significant step forward for the company, as to date it has used familiar Chrysler Pacifica and Jaguar i-Pace models fitted with its Waymo Driver tech to deliver automated functionality.

But now it has a purpose-built, electric AV capable of Level 4 self-driving at its disposal as it continues to expand operations beyond Phoenix and San Francisco.

The robotaxi will be based on Zeekr’s new SEA-M platform, which has been adapted from parent company’s Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture and was announced at the same time as the Waymo unveil.

The new architecture is described by Zeekr as “a high-tech mobility solution” created to support “a range of future products including robotaxis, multi-purpose vehicles, and logistics vehicles.” As such, it will not be exclusive to the Waymo taxi, and it will be available for other autonomous tech companies and ride-hailing operators to buy and develop.

According to Zeekr, the platform turns on its head the idea that vehicles have to be developed around the driver. A flat floor, widened axles and the lack of a B-pillar provide designers with the opportunity to create a cabin that resembles a “mobile living room.” Zeekr has even developed a concept of its own, the M-Vision, to illustrate what’s possible.

But understandably, it’s Waymo’s iteration that will attract the most attention at this stage. The Waymo Driver tech is integrated into the roof and sides, while inside the first thing that is apparent is that there is no steering wheel. Instead, a screen is positioned between the front two rear seats.

There are more screens for the second row of seats, which accommodates three, and access to both the front and back rows is made easier by sliding doors on either side. And there is, of course, a cargo area to carry the luggage of passengers.

The collaborative nature of the project, meanwhile, is emphasized by the fact the robotaxi wears both Waymo and Zeekr badging.

It is understood the robotaxi will be used in LA, although no timeline has yet been established for commercial deployment.

Zeekr CEO Andy An hailed the partnership with Waymo and what it means for the company, saying: “The affirmation of partners for the SEA-M has also reflected Zeekr’s ability to customize development according to the needs of each user. Going forth, Zeekr will continue to work with great global partners to support better and more sustainable intelligent mobility for all.”

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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