App based taxi service Lyft has teamed up with autonomous vehicle outfit Motional to offer autonomous rides to people in Las Vegas using a new fully electric autonomous vehicle.
The firms have been running autonomous driving trials in Las Vegas for quite a few years, and have now officially launched a service where users can use the Lyft app to order a Hyundai IONIQ 5-based robot taxi, a purpose built fully driverless commercial vehicle.
This service is a kind of dummy run for a ‘fully driverless service’ which will launch in Las Vegas in 2023, before expanding to other major US cities. It’s been left vague in the announcement as to how that will differ from what they’ve just announced as being available to Lyft users – but the Verge reports that for now there is a ‘safety driver’ parked in the vehicle just in case anything goes wrong. Which spoils the fun a bit.
Users can control their journey without assistance from a driver however – you can apparently unlock the doors through the Lyft app, and start the ride or contact customer support from a new in-car AV app. These new features are being made available to the public now ‘in preparation for when the service plans to be fully driverless next year.’
“Motional and Lyft have a clear path to widespread commercialization of Level 4 autonomous vehicles,” said Karl Iagnemma, Motional’s President and CEO. “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. 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 IONIQ 5 AV is fully customized for driverless ride-hail operation, while maintaining the vehicle’s award-winning comfort and design.”
Logan Green, Lyft’s CEO and co-founder added: “Launching Motional’s all-electric IONIQ 5 on Lyft’s network in Las Vegas represents tremendous progress in our vision to make an electric, autonomous, and shared future a reality for people everywhere,” said Logan Green, Lyft’s CEO and co-founder. “Building an experience that Lyft riders love is core to advancing this technology, and today’s launch provides riders access to Motional’s autonomous technology in a way that will feel seamless, familiar, and personalized, all on a network they already trust. We are designing an autonomous experience where the only expectation for riders is to relax and enjoy the ride.”
Meanwhile, fellow taxi app Uber announced today it was raising fares for UK users in an attempt to provide incentives for another 8000 drivers to join its ranks in London. Perhaps before long such problems will be solved via a shipment of robot cars as opposed to a recruitment drive for humans, who will insist on frivolities like wages and worker’s rights.