- Lyft and driverless technology company Motional have resumed their self-driving mobility service in Las Vegas, following a months-long hiatus imposed amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- The service returns following the implementation of "enhanced protective measures" to keep passengers safe, including frequent sanitization, a partition between front and rear seats and personal protective equipment (PPE) for drivers.
- The Lyft network hosts "dozens" of Motional's autonomous vehicles (AV) in Las Vegas, said Gretchen Effgen, vice president of marketing at Motional. Customers can opt for a Motional car when requesting a ride in the Lyft app.
This reintroduction of the Vegas robotaxi service allows passengers to ride in the first Motional-branded AVs, marking a key milestone for the joint driverless technology venture under Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv. Prior to Motional's launch in August, Aptiv was Lyft's key partner in this self-driving service.
COVID-19 has adjusted consumer preferences on technology and transportation modes, opening a prime window of opportunity for self-driving services to draw in new customers. A recent Motional Consumer Mobility Report found 19% of Americans are more interested in AVs now than before the onset of the pandemic. That survey also found 84% of respondents believe access to safe, clean transportation is a public health issue, which could be driving the shift in transportation preferences.
Public transit ridership plummeted in the first half of 2020 due to social distancing concerns, leaving riders to opt for other modes of transportation including ride-hailing. Yet Motional's vehicles are still supported by a safety driver, prompting the company's focus on protective measures.
When asked about the benefit of an "autonomous" Lyft trip with a safety driver versus a traditional Lyft trip, Effgen said riders get the best of both worlds: "Passengers are able to experience self-driving technology first-hand while enjoying the comfort and convenience of a traditional Lyft ride."
She went on to say the service has seen "overwhelmingly positive" results since its launch in 2018, with a 98% five-star rating across 100,000 rides. Las Vegas' eager reception to the robotaxi service has turned some heads, however, bringing in competition from Amazon-owned robotaxi service Zoox.
Motional will likely leverage insights from this Lyft program in developing its fully automated driving system, which the company aims to begin selling in 2022.