Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Rename Their Autonomous Driving Joint Venture ‘Motional'

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【Summary】The joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and self-driving technology developer Aptiv has a new name—”Motional.” The goal of Motional is to combine Hyundai’s expertise in design, engineering, and vehicle manufacturing with Aptiv’s autonomous driving expertise to commercialize a SAE Level 4 and 5 self-driving platform for robotaxi providers, fleet operators and automakers.

Eric Walz    Sep 18, 2020 9:00 AM PT
Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Rename Their Autonomous Driving Joint Venture ‘Motional'

The joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and self-driving technology developer Aptiv has a new name—"Motional."

The name was derived from two words, "motion" and "emotional" Aptiv said in a blog post. Motion refers to the movement of driverless vehicles enabled by the company's technology, while Emotional evokes the company's focus on building confidence in autonomous vehicles.

The two companies announced their intent to form a joint venture for the development of self-driving vehicles in Sept 2019. The partnership was officially confirmed in March, but wasn't named at the time. 

The goal of Motional is to combine Hyundai's expertise in design, engineering, and vehicle manufacturing with Aptiv's autonomous driving expertise to commercialize a SAE Level 4 and 5 platform for robotaxi providers, fleet operators, and automotive manufacturers.

Aptiv is contributing its autonomous driving technology, intellectual property, and employees focused on the development of scalable autonomous driving technology to the joint venture.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) classifies level-4 and 5 autonomous vehicles as "fully autonomous", meaning that the systems can handle most driving situations without any human intervention.

The joint venture, which is valued at roughly $4 billion, is the one of the latest partnerships between an established automaker and a tech company, as the industry races to develop self-driving vehicles, robotaxis and other advanced mobility services.

Others include Ford and Volkswagen's investment in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, and the General Motors investment in San Francisco-based Cruise to develop technology for autonomous vehicles, including building an autonomous shuttle with Honda for a commercial robotaxi service.

In addition, Waymo's partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is to outfit autonomous driving technology on vehicles during production and e-commerce giant Amazon's recent acquisition of self-driving startup Zoox for over $1 billion is for the development of autonomous delivery vehicles.

Motional, which is based in Boston, has technology centers in the U.S. and Asia. The joint venture's South Korea operations will serve as a base for vehicle modification and a test site for Hyundai's autonomous driving mobility service platforms. 

In the interim, the two companies are working on an advanced driver assist system (ADAS) to make driving safer. These technologies will pave the way for self-driving vehicles.

Some of the newest ADAS technologies include automated cruise control with lane keep assist for hands-free highway driving, pedestrian detection systems, automatic emergency braking, self-parking, as well as lidar and radar perception systems for navigation.

"As the leader in ADAS technology, Aptiv is committed to providing our OEM partners with a safe and scalable platform on which they can innovate, as well as educating consumers, advocacy groups, and policymakers on how this advanced technology is helping to save and improve lives," wrote Aptiv President and CEO Kevin Clark in a blog post on Monday.

Hyundai successfully demonstrated its level-4 autonomous driving technology in Feb 2018 for the first time, when five of its NEXO fuel cell electric vehicles travelled 190 kilometers from Seoul to Pyeongchang in South Korea without human assistance. 

Aptiv was formerly known as Delphi Automotive, spinning off from Delphi's powertrain division in Dec 2017. Aptiv's portfolio includes perception systems, software algorithms, computing platforms, and data distribution. 

Before announcing its partnership with Hyundai, Aptiv acquired several promising startups over the past few years.

In Aug 2015, Aptiv acquired Ottomatika, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff that provides software and systems development for self-driving vehicles. At the time, Ottomatika was developing software that acts as the" brain" of a self-driving vehicle powering a network of sensors.

In Jan 2017, Aptive acquired Movimento, a company specializing in secure over-the-air software updates for vehicles. Nine months later Aptiv acquired Boston-based MIT spinoff NuTonomy for $400 million, a software startup developing vehicle-to-passenger information systems for a commercial robo-taxi service.

Aptiv has been testing its autonomous driving technology on public roads since 2018 in a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft in Las Vegas, picking up riders in self-driving vehicles operated by the company. At the time, the pilot was one of largest commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles in a ride-hailing network in the U.S. 

Motional plans to rapidly expand its operations as it ramps up its autonomous driving development. The company plans to increase staffing by about 45% this year and have a vehicle capable of driving itself in defined areas by 2022, said Motional president Karl Iagnemma on a call.

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