US ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies and driverless tech-maker Motional have launched their public robotaxi service in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Tough regulatory scrutiny and delayed commercial adoption of autonomous vehicle technology have delayed deployment of robotaxi services, leaving investors worried. The launch is part of a non-exclusive 10-year agreement between both the companies for driverless vehicles, with a rollout in Los Angeles expected to follow.
In the multi-market deal, Motional’s autonomous vehicles would also ferry both passengers and delivery items for Uber and its Uber Eats division.
The companies said they would have vehicle operators for now, but are working to make a fully driverless experience available to the public next year.
If an autonomous vehicle is available to complete the trip, Uber will match the rider to the vehicle, and they will receive an offer to opt-in before the autonomous trip is confirmed and dispatched to pick them up.
Uber is rekindling its robotaxi plans following a brief hiatus after selling its autonomous vehicle research division to San Francisco-based startup Aurora in 2020.
Uber has also signed a 10-year deal with autonomous driving startup Nuro to use the company’s driverless delivery pods in California and Texas.
Last month, rival Lyft said it would launch the robotaxi service in Los Angeles after it had rolled out in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Motional, which uses Hyundai’s IONIQ5 electric car for the robotaxi service, is a joint venture between the South Korean manufacturer and automotive technology company Aptiv, and has been testing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers for a couple of years.
On Wednesday, Uber was fined AUD 21 million (roughly Rs. 115 crore) by an Australian court on Wednesday for threatening cancellation fees it never charged and overstating fare estimates on some rides. The penalty was less than a regulator wanted.
The Australian arm of the US ride-sharing app broke consumer law by misleading customers with warnings they would be charged for cancelling some rides from 2017 to 2021 and by using an inaccurate software algorithm to estimate fares for a taxi service it offered until August 2020, the Federal Court ruled.
© Thomson Reuters 2022