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.
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.
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.
All electric.— Waymo (@Waymo) November 17, 2022
Designed specifically for fully autonomous ride-hailing.
Take a peek at our new mobility platform in partnership with @GeelyGroup—available in the years to come. ???????? pic.twitter.com/AJiRtPzytP