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Waymo's Zeekr Electric Robotaxi Needs a Driver for Now, Will Pick You Up Someday

Someday, you will be able to use your smartphone and call a robotaxi that will be entirely autonomous. The vehicle would arrive at your location, wait for you to get in, close the door, buckle up, and then proceed to your selected destination after you give it the all-clear in the dedicated app. In certain places of the world, it already works, but it has its limitations.
Waymo Zeekr electric robotaxi prototype 24 photos
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Several companies are working on developing such vehicles, which are described as robotaxis. For the moment, almost all the prototypes have a human driver behind the wheel, as they are aiming for SAE Level 4 autonomy, which involves still having a steering wheel, pedals, and a way to select if you are going forward or backward, along with other useful controls. There are companies who want to offer SAE Level 5 autonomy in a robotaxi, which would not require a human to operate.

The prototype that you can see in the top image, as well as in the photo gallery, is called Zeekr, and it is Geely's all-electric mobility brand. Currently, the company is developing a fleet of electric robotaxis for Waymo, which is Alphabet's (formerly Google) self-driving car project that used various other vehicles until recently.

Waymo is currently operating a fully driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, and it is the world's first and only service of this kind. It has a set of limitations, but that has not stopped it from providing thousands of rides.

Now, Waymo is looking for a spacious minivan that will seat five people and have sliding doors on both sides, for optimal access. Somehow, the company appears to have missed the fact that Volkswagen was preparing a production version of the ID. Buzz, which is also being developed by its manufacturer to have a self-driving variant.

Regardless, the Zeekr is being developed, and it has a human behind its wheel. Not only that, but the safety driver was also photographed while holding the wheel (incorrectly- we might add, at 12 o'clock – a dangerous position if the airbag deploys), and the driver's hand can be seen moving the wheel, so you can say that the human was driving, not the “robot” part of the robotaxi equation.

Some believe that there will be both autonomous and conventional versions of the Zeekr, but that remains to be seen. All we know is that the prototype looks a bit strange and that it is being driven by a human in these photos.

 
 
 
 
 

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