Your next Las Vegas Uber ride may not have a driver behind the wheel.
Uber is partnering with driverless technology company Motional to offer autonomous vehicle rides in Las Vegas, with plans to expand to other major cities like Los Angeles.
While there will initially be two vehicle operators present in the front seats, Uber and Motional aim to launch a fully driverless commercial service in 2023.
Riders should “get the normal seamlessness and reliability of Uber that they’ve come to expect, with an added touch of a taste of the future,” Noah Zych, Uber’s global head of autonomous mobility and delivery, told USA TODAY.
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Uber’s focus on autonomous vehicles
Uber’s latest move in the autonomous vehicle space comes two years after Uber agreed to sell its self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group.
Zych said the company sold the unit knowing autonomous vehicles would still play a role in its future; the technology just didn’t need to be developed in-house.
“We can really focus at Uber on the parts of autonomous vehicle introduction that we think we can do really well, (like) bringing the network connection, bringing the customer and merchant interface on the delivery side,” Zych said. “While leaving sort of the impressive progress on the AV technology that companies like Motional have made to them.”
Uber says its new partnership with Motional is expected to create one of the largest deployments of autonomous vehicles on a major ride-hailing network, with the potential to reach millions of riders.
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Motional, a joint venture between automaker Hyundai and technology company Aptiv, has already launched autonomous vehicles on the Las Vegas Strip with Lyft.
Motional also launched a free robotaxi service in downtown Las Vegas with Via earlier this year.
Why launch in Las Vegas?
Las Vegas typically sees more than 42 million annual visitors, allowing Uber and Motional to get feedback from a large, diverse pool of riders.
“With Motional, they’ve obviously been testing here for a long time. And so this was a great market for us to do our first commercial launch with public passengers,” Zych said. “We’re doing what will likely be a lot of people’s – or probably most people’s – first trip in an autonomous vehicle. It’s great to get a diverse set of feedback from all sorts of different perspectives.”
How to book an Uber robotaxi
Customers can hail a self-driving ride on the Uber app by selecting UberX or Uber Comfort Electric options for the chance to be matched with a Motional vehicle. Riders will have the option to opt in to the self-driving ride before the trip is confirmed.
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Story Credit: usatoday.com