Teachedge: The all-electric robotaxi service from Lyft and Motional is now available in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, a new robotaxi service is now available to the general public. It is operated by Lyft and Motional, an autonomous vehicle firm, and is a precursor to a completely driverless service expected to launch in the city in 2023.

Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, has been testing its autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas for over four years through a relationship with Lyft. The testing began in 2018 with a weeklong pilot between Aptiv and Lyft at the annual Consumer Electronics Show and has now completed over 100,000 passenger trips.

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Motional’s all-electric, autonomous Hyundai vehicles are available on the Lyft app in Las Vegas.

Today, the firms announced the public launch of that service, which will allow users to hail a ride in one of the company’s self-driving, all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 vehicles that have been converted for commercial use. Similarly to how other robotaxi services have started over the years, a safety driver will remain behind the wheel in the event that something goes wrong. However, Motional and Lyft have stated that completely driverless vehicles will be included to the service next year.

Unlike other US robotaxi services, Motional and Lyft do not require potential riders to sign up for a waitlist or sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to participate in a beta-testing program. And the rides will be free; the corporations want to charge for the service next year.

“The service is now available to the general public,” said Akshay Jaising, Motional’s VP of marketing, in an email. “A Motional AV can be requested by any Lyft rider in Las Vegas.” There are no NDAs. There are no sign-ups. For the past four years, Motional and Lyft have functioned in this manner. We feel that real riders, not employees or limited participants, provide the best input.”

Customers who wish to ride in one of Motional’s autonomous vehicles will have access to a number of new features that distinguish this service from Lyft’s traditional vehicle network. Customers, for example, will be able to unlock the doors using the Lyft app. Once inside, they’ll be able to start the ride or contact customer service via the new in-car Lyft AV app, which will be displayed on an in-car touchscreen.

The new capabilities, according to Motional and Lyft, are backed by “extensive research and input from real riders to improve their comfort and ease of use.” The firms are now making the new user features available to the public in anticipation for the service’s planned autonomous transition next year.

Motional claims to have a license to conduct “completely driverless testing anywhere in Nevada.” The two businesses have stated that they will obtain the necessary approvals to begin performing commercial rides with customers in completely driverless vehicles before the launch in 2023.

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Motional was initially revealed in March 2020, when Hyundai announced a $1.6 billion investment to catch up to rivals in the autonomous car field, in collaboration with Aptiv, a technology company formerly known as Delphi, which owns 50% of the business. The company now has offices in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Seoul, and its vehicles have been tested in Boston and Pittsburgh.

Currently, only a few AV operators have fully driverless vehicles, also known as Level 4 autonomous vehicles, on public roads. Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving business, has been operating Level 4 vehicles in the Phoenix suburbs for several years and is now seeking authorization to do so in San Francisco. Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, operates a commercial driverless vehicle service in San Francisco, but only at night.

Meanwhile, Lyft is establishing itself as a platform through which customers in cities throughout the country can book rides in self-driving cars. Last year, the ride-hailing business sold its autonomous vehicle research and development section to a Toyota affiliate. Lyft has since signed agreements with Motional, Waymo, and Argo, a self-driving company sponsored by Ford and Volkswagen.

And Motional isn’t the only company that bases its robotaxi operations on Sin City. Zoox, an Amazon company, is also testing driverless vehicles in Las Vegas.

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