Lyft and Motional’s all-electric robotaxi service is now live in Las Vegas
A new Robotaxi service has been officially launched for public use in Las Vegas. Operated by Lyft and an autonomous vehicle company called Motional, it’s the prelude to a fully driverless service due to roll out in the city in 2023.
Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, has been testing its autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas for over four years through a joint partnership with Lyft. Testing began as a week-long pilot between Aptiv and Lyft during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in 2018 and has since completed over 100,000 passenger rides.
Today, the companies announce the public launch of this service, marking the first time customers can welcome a ride in one of the company’s autonomous, all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 vehicles, modified for commercial operation. A safety driver remains behind the wheel in case something goes wrong, similar to how other Robotaxi services have been introduced over the years. But Motional and Lyft say fully driverless vehicles will join the service next year.
Unlike other Robotaxi services in the US, Motional and Lyft do not require potential drivers to sign up for a waitlist or sign a nondisclosure agreement to participate in a beta testing program. And rides will be free; The companies plan to start charging for the service next year.
“The service is open to the public,” Akshay Jaising, vice president of commercialization at Motional, said in an email. “Any Lyft driver in Las Vegas can request a Motional AV. No NDAs. No registrations. That’s how Motional and Lyft have worked for the last four years. We believe the best feedback comes from real drivers, not employees or limited participants.”
Customers who wish to drive in one of Motional’s autonomous vehicles will have access to a number of new features that make this service unique in Lyft’s traditional vehicle network. For example, customers can unlock the doors through the Lyft app. Once in the vehicle, they can begin the journey or contact customer service through the new in-car Lyft AV app, displayed on an in-car touchscreen.
Motional and Lyft say the new features are backed by “extensive research and feedback from real riders to maximize their comfort and usability.” The companies are now rolling out the new user features to the public in preparation for the service to be fully driverless next year.
Motional says it has permission to conduct “completely driverless testing anywhere in Nevada.” The two companies say they will obtain the appropriate permits to conduct commercial rides with passengers in fully driverless vehicles before launch in 2023.
was motional first announced in March 2020, as Hyundai said it would spend $1.6 billion to catch up with its competitors in the autonomous vehicle space, along with Aptiv, a technology company formerly known as Delphi that owns 50 percent of the company. The company currently has facilities in Las Vegas, Singapore and Seoul and has also tested its vehicles in Boston and Pittsburgh.
Currently, only a small handful of AV operators have actually deployed fully driverless vehicles, also known as Level 4 autonomous vehicles, on public roads. Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit, has been operating its Level 4 vehicles in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona for a number of years and is seeking approval in San Francisco. Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, operates a commercial service with its driverless vehicles in San Francisco, but only at night.
Meanwhile, Lyft is positioning itself as a platform for customers to arrange rides in autonomous vehicles in cities across the country. The ride-hailing company sold its AV research and development division to a Toyota subsidiary last year. Since then, Lyft has struck deals with Motional, Waymo, and Argo, a self-driving company backed by Ford and Volkswagen.
And Motional isn’t the only company using Sin City as a base for its robotaxi business. Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon, is also testing its autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas.