Its Jaguar I-Pace EVs will take over along with a new Zeekr prototype.
Google's self-driving subsidiary Waymo has announced in a blog post that it will retire its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as part of a plan to go purely battery-electric. The company's fleet of also modified Jaguar I-Pace EVs will continue operations along with a new all-electric autonomous robotaxi developed as part of a partnership with Zeekr, a brand owned by Chinese automaker Geely.
Waymo and Zeekr unveiled the mobility vehicle prototype in late 2021. No word was given as to when the road-going version will enter service. Waymo currently only operates in the metro Phoenix, Arizona region but it has plans to expand services to San Francisco and Los Angeles, California in the future.
The retirement of these minivans will begin immediately and is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
"Focusing our service on an all I-Pace fleet helps us better optimize our technical and operational support to be more efficient in the near term as we prepare future vehicles like the Zeekr mobility platform," the post states. "Our machine learning-based fifth-generation Waymo Driver learns more with every mile traveled, so deploying our existing I-PACE fleet into the East Valley will only further advance the performance and reliability of the Driver as we continue to scale."
Waymo says its EV fleet will be matched with 100% renewable energy in order to be a zero-emissions ride-hailing service. Along with those announcements, Waymo has confirmed it is joining the White House EV Acceleration Challenge that was unveiled this past week. It is a detailed plan that involves EV fleet expansion, a massive expansion of charging stations, and consumer education and support.
Ride-sharing is a key component to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as Waymo adds that "shared mobility can help repurpose parking, complement existing transit options, improve pedestrian safety and reduce localized emissions, ultimately helping cities and streets be designed more for people and less for cars."
The new Zeekr mobility vehicle has a lot of promise. Designed at Zeekr's R&D center in Gothenburg, Sweden, it features Waymo's in-house-developed technologies such as ADAS sensors found on the roof and four corners. The spacious interior, at least on the prototype, offers enough room for up to five passengers and has reclining seats and plenty of chargers for personal devices. There is no steering wheel and the dashboard simply consists of a large screen and audio speakers. It will be interesting to see how much of the design is carried over from the prototype to the production version.
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