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Lyft & Hyundai's Joint Venture Motional to Launch a Fully Driverless Ride-Hailing Service in Major U.S. Cities

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【Summary】California ride hailing company Lyft is teaming up with Boston-based Motional on an autonomous ride-hailing service in major cities across the U.S., the companies announced on Wednesday. Motional’s self-driving vehicles will be integrated, operationalized and deployed on the Lyft network. The services will launch in 2023.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 16, 2020 11:30 AM PT
Lyft & Hyundai's Joint Venture Motional to Launch a Fully Driverless Ride-Hailing Service in Major U.S. Cities

California ride hailing company Lyft is teaming up with Boston-based Motional on an autonomous ride-hailing service in major cities across the U.S., the companies announced on Wednesday. Motional's self-driving vehicles will be integrated, operationalized and deployed on the Lyft network. The services will launch in 2023. 

The companies did not say which cities they will launch in first or the number of self-driving vehicles that will be deployed on the platform. The launch markets will be announced at a later date. 

The autonomous ride-hailing service paves the way for the commercialization of robotaxis at scale. Lyft currently operates the second biggest ride-hailing network in the U.S. It's chief rival Uber operates the largest. 

Lyft reported in its SEC filing ahead of its 2019 IPO that it had 18.6 million active riders and over 1.1 million drivers for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The company operates in over 300 markets across the United States and Canada. Unlike its rival Uber, Lyft only operates in North America. 

"This agreement is a testament to our global leadership in driverless technology. We're at the frontier of transportation innovation, moving robotaxis from research to road," said Karl Iagnemma, President and CEO, Motional.  "Our aim is to not only build safe, reliable, and accessible driverless vehicles, but to deliver them at significant scale.  We're partnering with Lyft to do exactly that."

Motional is the joint venture between South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co and self-driving technology developer Aptiv. The two companies first announced their intent to collaborate on the development of self-driving vehicles in Sept 2019. The partnership was officially confirmed in March of this year and the venture's name "Motional" was announced in August.

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

The Motional joint venture is valued at roughly $4 billion and represents the latest partnership between an established automaker and a tech company in the race to develop self-driving vehicles, robotaxis and other advanced mobility services.

In addition to the Motional joint venture, U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. partnered with autonomous driving startup Argo AI on the development of self-driving technology for the automaker. In 2016, General Motors took a majority stake in San Francisco autonomous driving startup Cruise for $1 billion in order to jumpstart its own self-driving vehicle development.

The ride-hailing vehicles will be based on a new Hyundai vehicle platform that integrates all of the sensors, computers, hardware and software for self-driving. Since there will be no driver present, the vehicles will be monitored by remote teleoperators that can take over control remotely if the vehicle encounters any unexpected road closure or a situation where the trip cannot be completed.

For the ride-hailing service, Lyft's role will operate the rideshare network and the customer experience for hailing an autonomous robotaxi. The two companies said they will collaborate to ensure seamless integration of the new vehicles onto the Lyft platform, and share responsibility for fleet operations.  

"This agreement is a testament to our global leadership in driverless technology. We're at the frontier of transportation innovation, moving robotaxis from research to road," commented Karl Iagnemma, President and CEO, Motional.  "Our aim is to not only build safe, reliable, and accessible driverless vehicles, but to deliver them at significant scale.  We're partnering with Lyft to do exactly that."

Motional and Lyft's partnership began three years ago as a self-driving pilot in Las Vegas pickup up passengers in autonomous vehicles with safety drivers. To date, the autonomous ride-hailing service has completed over 100,000 trips, with 98% of passengers awarding their rides a five-star rating. 

Lyft partnership with Motional comes as its biggest rival Uber is scaling back plans to develop self-driving vehicles on its own.

Uber just sold its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) division to autonomous driving technology developer Aurora for $4 billion. Uber's ATG was tasked with developing self-driving vehicles that Uber planned to add to its platform. Uber still retains a minority stake and plans to add self-driving vehicles to its ride hailing and food delivery network with the help of Aurora.

In the interim before launching a commercial robotaxi service, Motional and Hyundai are working on an advanced driver assist system (ADAS) for the automaker's production vehicles that paves the way for future self-driving vehicles.

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. 

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