Surprise! It's Chinese-designed.
Aside from all-electric vehicles, the next big thing in the auto industry is fully autonomous vehicles. Tesla is just one of many players in this field, though its progress on the matter has been controversial, to say the least. And then there's a Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc., parent company of Google. Instead of trusting AI learning, Waymo prefers LiDAR cameras and, overall, a more complex way of achieving Level 5 autonomy. It's been testing modified examples of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Jaguar I-Pace for a few years, but now it finally has something all its own.
Introducing the new "mobility vehicle," designed and built by Zeekr, the luxury brand of China's Geely Holding Group. The car company will build EVs for the Waymo One autonomous ride-hailing service that'll soon begin operations in the US.
The fully electric van pictured here was actually designed at Zeekr's R&D center in Gothenburg, Sweden though it's packed with Waymo's own autonomous technologies. Take note of the van's ADAS sensors located on the roof and four corners. For now, this appears to be a concept version of the eventual production vehicle. We suspect several design aspects will make production, specifically the sliding front and rear doors, wraparound greenhouse, and general shape.
Inside, there's a spacious cabin with plenty of headroom and legroom for up to five passengers. There are even reclining seats with chargers nearby for personal electronic devices. The B-pillar? Non-existent. Notice that the dashboard lacks a steering wheel and pedals. There's nothing there but a large screen for destination information and audio speakers.
The production-spec vans will eventually be shipped to the US where Waymo will integrate its fully autonomous Waymo Driver into the vehicle's platform. This is one of Zeekr's first design projects. The company launched only last April and has done just a few vehicles for the Chinese domestic market. Collaborating with Waymo will give it the opportunity to enter the highly lucrative US auto market, though not in the traditional sense.
Zeekr aims to expand its overall international presence in 2023 but neither it nor Waymo confirmed when the autonomous ride-hailing van will be hitting America's roads.