Google’s parent company Alphabet operates the robotaxi business Waymo. These spy shots show the cold-weather development of the electric, autonomous vehicle from the Chinese brand Zeekr that Waymo intends to add to its fleet.
In front, the Zeekr robotaxi has a smooth shape. There’s a small inlet in the center of the lower portion. The headlights have a high location on the nose with a position directly below the windshield.
Looking through the glass, you can see a driver holding the steering wheel and passenger inside the van. Having someone at the controls hints this one isn’t running autonomously.
In profile, the steeply angled nose and boxy rear make the Zeekr look like a smaller version of the wedge-shaped General Motors minivans from the 1990s: the Chevrolet Lumina APV, Oldsmobile Silhouette, and Pontiac Trans Sport. The tall side door and vehicle’s low floor make entering and exiting the van appear to be an easy process.
The back of this van has lots of snow covering it. There’s a broad rear window with an arch-like shape. Below the glass, there are horizontally oriented taillights. The hatch appears to have a large opening and a low floor for making loading cargo easy.
Late in 2021, Waymo announced a deal with Chinese automaker Geely for its Zeekr brand to supply the robotaxis. The renderings (gallery above) showed a vehicle with a pair of sliding doors on each side. It had a flat floor and two rows of seats for a total of five passengers. The original plan was not to put a steering wheel in the cabin, but a wheel is visible in these spy shots.
It’s not clear when the Zeekr robotaxi hits the road. “We’ll begin to introduce these all-electric, rider-first, fully autonomous vehicles on US roads within our Waymo One fleet in the years to come,” a statement from Waymo said when it announced the partnership with Geely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently removed the requirement for fully autonomous vehicles to have manual controls in order to comply with safety standards. Only models operating solely on automated driving systems can take advantage of this rule change.