Autonomous vehicle company Motional and ride-share outfit Lyft are just months away from the first public users taking driverless rides around Las Vegas. It’s the culmination of five years of testing in the Nevada city.
Starting in 2023 visitors will see Motional’s electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 autonomous vehicle (AV) ferrying people around the city without a driver. Lyft says it put special care into the passenger compartment using what it learned after hundreds of thousands of rides.
When the Ioniq 5 pulls up riders can swipe a button on the Lyft app and the vehicle’s doors will unlock. The ride won’t start until the passenger presses a button once they’re settled. They can also press a button to contact Lyft customer support.
Motional was created as an autonomous vehicle joint venture in March 2020 between auto supplier Aptiv and Hyundai Motor Group.
Motional provides the more than 30 sensors need to operate without a driver including radar, lidar and cameras creating a 360-degree picture of what’s around it. Motional says its systems can work in both darkness and inclement weather.
“Motional and Lyft have a clear path to widespread commercialization of Level 4 autonomous vehicles,” Karl Iagnemma, Motional’s President and CEO said in a statement.
“Today’s launch signals we’re on track to deliver a fully driverless service next year. Riders in Las Vegas can now experience Motional’s Ioniq 5 AV that will make that service a reality. Through our strategic partnership with Hyundai, the AV is fully customized for driverless ride-hail operation.”
In May, AV competitor Waymo expanded its driverless program in Phoenix, taking the safety driver out of its robotaxi service. Employees were the first riders, but it then opened up to trusted testers, who have volunteered for the program.
It’s testing in many neighborhoods of the city in Arizona and has recently expanded to Sky Harbor Airport.
The Ioniq 5 AVs will feature touchscreens mounted behind each front row seat with information, including their destination, current location, and expected arrival time. Motional also says it fine-tunes the way its cars drive making it “feel like there’s a skilled driver behind the wheel.”
That includes how hard it brakes and takes off, how it goes over speedbumps and how it approaches a busy drop off spot.
Motion has completed more than 100,000 autonomous rides already in Las Vegas using previous versions of its AV and says the new Ioniq 5 will be more advanced and more rider-friendly.
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