Uber has signed a 10-year agreement to use autonomous Ioniq 5 EVs from Hyundai’s Motional for ride-hailing and deliveries, the companies announced. The vehicles will be “strategically deployed” in cities around the US and start offering passenger rides later this year.
“This agreement will be instrumental to the wide scale adoption of robotaxis,” said Motional CEO Karl Iagnemma. “Motional now has unparalleled access to millions of riders and a roadmap to scale significantly over the next ten years.”
The companies are already working together. Late last year, Uber announced that it would test autonomous food delivery with Motional (a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv) sometime in 2022. Motional is also working with Lyft, having started public tests in Las Vegas and Los Angeles back in August with the ride-hailing firm. (Uber used to have its own autonomous vehicle division called Advanced Technologies Group, but sold it to Aurora Innovation back in 2020.)
Uber will provide Motional with data to help it best allocate and position vehicles. In turn, Motional said its autonomous vehicles will allow for “reduced vehicle downtime and unnecessary miles traveled.” It’ll also supposedly lead to a better customer experience, with lower wait times and fares.
We’ve heard similar promises before, but so far, only Alphabet division Waymo and GM’s Cruise are offering true driverless services at a reasonably large scale. The Waymo One service is operating in Phoenix and San Francisco, while Cruise rides are currently limited to San Francisco. Both operate only in specific areas of cities and some vehicles still use safety riders.
Motional got off to a later start than both those companies, but has completed more than 100,000 autonomous rides in Las Vegas using previous versions of its vehicles on the Lyft network, it said in August. However, the companies plan to ramp that up soon. “The scope of this partnership shows the important role that shared autonomous vehicles will play in the future of transportation, and in Uber’s strategy to be the global platform to help you go anywhere and get anything,” said Uber’s autonomous driving chief Noah Zych.
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