Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of employees laid off by Motional.
Motional and Uber plan to launch a public robotaxi service in Las Vegas next year, the companies announced in a press release Wednesday. Motional is a joint autonomous vehicle venture between Hyundai and automotive technology supplier Aptiv.
It will be the first service available under the companies’ October agreement to roll out autonomous ride-hailing and delivery services in U.S. cities over the next decade. Motional and Uber are launching the service with human drivers and plan to go driverless in 2023. The companies aim to establish a similar service in Los Angeles but didn’t specify a date.
Uber will not charge riders until the driverless service launches, Reuters first reported
“Today, Motional becomes the first AV company to conduct all-electric autonomous rides on the Uber network for public passengers,” said Akshay Jaising, Motional’s vice president of commercialization, in a press release. “Las Vegas is the first of many cities in which Motional’s AVs will become an everyday transportation option for Uber customers.”
Earlier this year, Motional and Uber Eats paired up to test autonomous deliveries in Santa Monica, California. The latest endeavor builds on that partnership and Motional’s prior AV development.
“Motional is uniquely experienced in deploying AVs for ride-hail, having operated a public robotaxi service in Las Vegas for five years,” the company said in a press release.
Motional and Lyft, an Uber competitor, have been testing autonomous rides in Las Vegas since 2018, with plans to launch a fully driverless service in 2023. Lyft also is piloting driverless ride-hailing services in Austin, Texas, and Miami. Meanwhile, Waymo, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, is offering driverless rides in Phoenix and San Francisco. Cruise, part of General Motors, also offers AV ride-hailing in San Francisco, although the roll-out of that service has been bumpy, with reports of stranded vehicles and other incidents in its first month.
Despite ongoing testing, the AV industry has struggled this year. Motional laid off a "small number" of its 1,500 workers last week, a company spokesperson said in an email, and Argo AI shuttered in October after its two largest investors, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, walked away.
Uber had developed its own AVs but shuttered the Arizona-based program after one of the company’s vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian.