Waymo Unveils Electric Driverless Taxi Prototype at 2022 LA Auto Show

Waymo Driverless Taxi 8 photos
Photo: Waymo / Twitter
Waymo Driverless TaxiWaymo Driverless Taxi Sliding DoorsWaymo Driverless Taxi ChassisWaymo Driverless TaxiWaymo Driverless TaxiWaymo Driverless Taxi InteriorWaymo Driverless Taxi Seating
In a partnership with Geely Auto Group, Waymo has unveiled a prototype for their upcoming autonomous taxi. The brand is looking to build on previous achievements and develop a driverless solution.
It seems more and more people view driving as something stressful and want to leave it in the binary hands of computers. This might sound sad or even absurd to petrolheads, but it is a reality we’ve been slowly getting acclimatized to. By now, we have become accustomed to seeing every manufacturer develop autonomous functions for their vehicles, but those still have some limitations and a driver behind the wheel.

Waymo said no to that and has developed a prototype for an all-electric, driverless robotaxi along with Geely Auto Group, which was revealed at the LA Auto Show. Well, that is not strictly true, as it aims for level 4 autonomy and above. This means that there will also be a model available with a human operator. Still, the main focus remains on reaching unmanned operation functionality.

The vehicle is called the Zeekr M-Vision and it will only be used in Waymo’s American fleet. It is based on a platform called the SEA-M, a development of Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) for autonomous vehicles. This platform is supposed to provide an average daily use of over 16 hours, which is highly impressive. Also great is the five-year or 500,000-km (310,000-mile) announced warranty.

Waymo Driverless Taxi Chassis
Photo: Waymo / Twitter
The vehicle is planned to be production-ready by 2024, and two separate teams are working hard on achieving that. Development is handled by both Zeekr’s European Innovation Centre (CEVT) and a Chinese R&D team, with a focus placed on both a driver-controlled option and a fully autonomous vehicle.

While this might seem disconcerting at first glance, it starts sounding like a great idea the more you think about it. Well, at least in theory, as computers are capable of being much more aware of each other, considerably reducing traffic congestion. Also, due to the same awareness factor, autonomous vehicles could drastically decrease the number of minor crashes, especially considering a computer does not get tired or distracted.

It is worth mentioning that Waymo already has experience when it comes to autonomous driving. It has been implementing driverless systems on conventional vehicles for a while now and has even developed an autonomous ride-hailing service available in Phoenix. That provides real-world experience and challenges to overcome, as well as an enormous amount of data to help improve the systems.

The vehicle itself has a rather bloated and bubbly aesthetic, slightly reminiscent of some sci-fi concepts. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that we’ve progressed past the idea of including a creepy robotic driver like the one in Total Recall.

Waymo Driverless Taxi Sliding Doors
Photo: Waymo / Twitter
However, looks are not a key factor when it comes to a taxi, with practicality being a lot more important. The chosen design means Waymo’s offering has it in spades, although not much info is currently available. What we do know is that the Zeekr forgoes the B-pillar to provide easy access inside through a double sliding door, similar to a minivan, which opens to 1.4m (4.6 feet).

Another advantage offered by the platform and capsule-like body is the space, which is hugely generous, as the wheelbase can vary between 2,7 m (8.6 feet) and 3,3 m (10.8 feet). Inside the roomy passenger cabin, a flexible seating arrangement can be chosen. The option shown in the unveiling is to carry 5 people in two captain’s chairs up front, and a three-seater bench in the back.

Whether we like it or not, it would appear the future is coming for us at an accelerated pace. Soon, there will be no human interaction with a taxi driver, but just a silent and sterile ride to our destinations.
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About the author: Bogdan Bebeselea
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As a kid, Bogdan grew up handing his dad the tools needed to work on his old Citroen and asking one too many questions about everything happening inside the engine bay. Naturally, this upbringing led Bogdan to become an engineer, but thanks to Top Gear, The Fast and the Furious series, and racing video games, a passion for automotive entertainment was ignited.
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