Waymo partners with China’s Geely to develop electric robotaxis for the United States


The self-driving arm of Google (GOOGL) parent company Alphabet announced the partnership Tuesday, calling the deployment of the cars a big part of its commitment to «expanding access to sustainable transportation.» Both firms said in press releases that the ride-hailing cars would be designed and developed by Zeekr, Geely’s electric mobility brand, at a facility in Sweden using «a new proprietary and open-source mobility architecture.»

Once the cars are delivered to Waymo in the United States, they’ll be set up with autonomous driving technology called Waymo Driver.

The companies did not say exactly when the vehicles would hit the streets. A blog post on Waymo’s website said the cars would be introduced within its Waymo One fleet «in the years to come.»

Waymo has said its self-driving vans have given tens of thousands of rides since the company launched a public robotaxi service in Chandler, Arizona, more than a year ago.

Earlier this year, CNN Business tested Waymo’s service and spoke with eight Waymo customers who have used it over the past year. They said at the time that they’re generally very satisfied and prefer it to Uber, Lyft or owning their own car.

Their stories indicated that there’s demand for robotaxis. But there are also significant barriers to self-driving cars becoming a mainstay in Americans’ lives anytime soon.

Google first established its self-driving car project in 2009. It was later re-named Waymo, and made a separate subsidiary of Alphabet.

The project began with grand ambition and promises. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in 2012 that «you can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this.»

The reality has turned out differently. Following years of promise, Waymo has yet to offer widespread fully autonomous rides to the general public.

This is not the first time Geely, meanwhile, has partnered with a major technology company to build cars. In January this year, the carmaker teamed up with Chinese search giant Baidu to build intelligent electric cars.

Waymo is also working with Stellantis and Jaguar.

— CNN Business’ Matt McFarland contributed to this report.