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Hyundai's Motional to Partner with Ride-Hailing Company Via on a U.S. Robotaxi Service

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【Summary】Hyundai Motor’s joint venture company Motional and transportation provider Via announced today a first-of-its-kind partnership for the future of on-demand, shared robotaxis. The combined strengths of both companies will be used to develop an autonomous, shared, ride-hailing service. The service is expected to launch in the first half of next year in the U.S. The launch city will be announced at a later date.

Eric Walz    Oct 27, 2020 5:20 PM PT
Hyundai's Motional to Partner with Ride-Hailing Company Via on a U.S. Robotaxi Service

Hyundai Motor's joint venture company Motional and transportation provider Via announced today a first-of-its-kind partnership for the future of on-demand, shared robotaxis. The combined strengths of both companies will be used to develop an autonomous and shared transportation service. The companion rider app will also feature local public transit information, to help riders connect to city local transit hubs to complete their trips.

As part of the collaboration, Motional and Via will collect data to better understand how autonomous vehicles can be integrated into public mass transit networks in the future and optimized for shared rides.

The partnership's first offering will be the shared robotaxis, which will be available to the public. The service is expected to launch in one of Motional's existing U.S. markets in the first half of next year. The launch city will be announced at a later date.

Motional is the joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and self-driving technology developer Aptiv. The two companies announced their intent to form a $4 billion joint venture for the development of self-driving vehicles in Sept 2019. The partnership was officially confirmed in March and was renamed "Motional" in early August. 

The new joint venture is the latest partnership between a major automaker and a tech company, as automakers race to develop self-driving vehicles and other advanced mobility services.

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As part of the collaboration, Via and Motional will build a digital infrastructure to incorporate self-driving vehicles as part of large-scale mass transit networks in cities. The vehicles will be on-demand, optimally routed, and shared by multiple passengers. 

Via has been working this technology on for the past several years. The company is the only mobility company with experience in developing software that integrates with multiple autonomous vehicle providers. Via's can manage both autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles under a single mobility platform. 

"We are excited to partner with Motional to make autonomous shared ride programs an affordable and efficient transportation alternative to the private vehicle," said Daniel Ramot, Via co-founder and CEO. "By combining groundbreaking on-demand mobility solutions with best-in-class technology for self-driving vehicles, we are creating new and necessary transit options for communities around the globe."

New York-based Via was founded in 2013. The company bills itself as an alternative to city mass transit offerings, which are often not convenient enough for riders. So the company set out to make public transportation in cities more convenient and affordable. 

Unlike traditional fixed-schedule mass transit routes within a city, Via offers an on-demand network similar to how people hail a ride with Uber or Lyft. 

Unlike Uber's platform where passengers are instructed to wait at a specific pickup location, Via's ride-hailing platform directs passengers to a nearby corner or "virtual bus stop" within a short walking distance of their location for easier pick up and drop offs. 

Via's platform uses advanced algorithms to allow multiple riders heading in the same direction to share the same vehicle. Once a customer requests a ride through the Via app, the algorithm finds a nearby vehicle that best matches their route and sends the vehicle to the designated pickup location. 

The new partnership will combine Motional's advanced self-driving vehicles with Via's routing technology that supports booking, passenger and vehicle assignments, as well as fleet management services for operators.  

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The partnership coincides with increased consumer interest in safer autonomous transportation in response to COVID-19 concerns.

To address these concerns, Via and Motional are working closely on protective measures, including the use of partitions, frequent sanitizing to ensure the health and safety of vehicle occupants. These protective measures will follow public health and government guidelines.

"This partnership comes at an especially significant moment, as COVID reshapes our views on transportation and consumers demand more, flexible, and varied options," commented Karl Iagnemma, President and CEO, Motional.  "We're thrilled to partner with Via and jointly lay the foundations for self-driving shared rides.  This is another step towards driverless technology reaching its full potential."

Motional has safely conducted over 100,000 rides, beginning with the launch of the world's first public robotaxi pilot in Singapore back in 2016. 

The initial collaboration between Via and Hyundai's Motional began over a year ago.

In Oct 2019, Via, Hyundai and autonomous driving startup Pony.ai successfully demonstrated a similar on-demand, autonomous vehicle service in Irvine, California called "BotRide." The service uses a fleet of self-driving, fully-electric Hyundai Kona SUVs to provide a free ride-sharing service to several hundred residents, including college students. 

The goal of the BotRide service is also to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ride-sharing environment.

For the BotRide service, Hyundai partnered with autonomous driving startup Pony.ai to build the self-driving system and with Via to create the BotRide on-demand ridesharing technology and application.

In January of this year, Via launched what it calls the largest U.S. ‘Micro-Transit' Service in California in the capital city of Sacramento. The service is called "SmaRT Ride" named after Sacremento's Regional Transit (RT) District. It serves nine regions throughout the city and offers residents more convenient transportation options. 

Like its venture with Motional, the Via-powered SmaRT Ride platform also serves as a link to existing public transportation offerings.

Via also operates in Europe through its joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans called "ViaVan."

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