The self-driving robotaxi will be available on the Lyft app.
While self-driving vehicles continue to draw criticism, vehicle manufacturers and tech companies are billing autonomous driving as the way of the future. GM-owned Cruise recently obtained permission to conduct faired driverless rides in San Francisco. Now, Motional (Hyundai's mobility subsidiary) and Lyft offer a similar experience for those in Las Vegas.
The cutting-edge robotaxi, based on the excellent Hyundai Ioniq 5, will be made available for ride-hail operation on the Las Vegas Lyft network. It's a rather big deal for the company, which notes this is the first time the public will be able to experience Motional's Ioniq 5.
Importantly, it also represents the beginning of big plans for both entities. In 2023, Motional and Lyft plan to offer a fully driverless service in several cities in the United States.
Lyft and Motional have been trialing the technology since 2018, but this is the first time a passenger will go from A to B without the assistance of a driver. To make life easier for ride-share users, customers will be able to unlock the vehicle through the Lyft app while, inside, the new Lyft AV app will allow them to start the ride or - should something go wrong - contact customer support.
Motional notes these features have been in the making for quite some time and have been developed with real-world feedback, all to make the passenger's trip easier and stress-free. "We've led the industry in commercial operations for years, and today's launch signals we're on track to deliver a fully driverless service next year," said Motional's Karl Iagnemma. "Riders in Las Vegas can now experience Motional's Ioniq 5 AV [which] will make that service a reality."
Of course, getting into a driverless vehicle is a fairly daunting prospect. To put concerns at ease, Motional notes it has conducted more than 100,000 autonomous rides across Las Vegas. All the data learned from these trips have been implemented into the new Ioniq 5 AV, which the Hyundai-owned company describes as its "most advanced and rider-friendly driverless vehicle."
In many ways, it will be the same as a regular Lyft trip. Users will still have access to key information, such as vehicle location and estimated arrival times. Aside from the smartphone app and the screens fitted to the vehicle, there are also physical buttons that the passenger may use to begin the ride or call for assistance. These controls have been specifically designed to be used by visually impaired individuals.
While there's no driver, Motional has said the AVs will still have two safety operators seated up front. From next year - when this service spreads across the country - there will be no safety net for the driverless Hyundai to rely on. But if Motional's service is as good as it wants us to believe, it should have no problem with that.
Interestingly, the company has studied rider reactions and used that to fine-tune important vehicle operations. "This includes paying attention to how fast the vehicle pulls away from the curb, how hard it brakes, the sharpness of the turns, even how it handles speed bumps and busy drop-off points," explains the company.
If you're looking to be driven around Sin City in an autonomous vehicle, hailing an Ioniq 5 AV should prove simple. It's as easy as checking the Lyft app to see if the vehicle is available. Previously, Motional has teamed up with UberEats to deliver food in self-driving Hyundais.