Hyundai announced on Tuesday, October 27th, as part of its Motional joint venture with Aptiv, that it will be setting up an autonomous taxi service in a city in the United States starting next year. The project is the result of the collaboration between Motional and the startup Via. The city in which the first prototypes will be housed has not yet been announced. However, it is known that they will arrive in the first half of 2021. The companies have filtered that the service will be rolled out in one of the cities in America where Motional already operates, and narrowed down the possible list in Boston, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Santa Monica.
Hyundai teamed up with Aptiv and Via to design its autonomous taxi project
The service will be open directly to the public and will be based on Motional vehicles. In a similar approach to the start of the autonomous shuttle Olli 2.0 in Toronto, an integration of the autonomous taxi service into the urban public transport system is to be determined. It is also an alternative that arises from the need to maintain sanitary conditions during these times of the pandemic.
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“We are at an important time in our industry when the opportunities for driverless adoption have never been greater. Recent research shows that 70% of Americans are rethinking their transportation in the face of COVID and one in five are more interested in driverless vehicles than they were before the pandemic, ”Karl Iagnemma said in a post on Medium.
For the European automobile manufacturer Motional, the joint venture founded in September 2019 with the American Aptiv was a cornerstone for the further development of its ambitions in the field of autonomous driving. Indeed, Aptiv is far from being a newcomer to this market, as around a hundred autonomous vehicles have already been brought into circulation on several continents through various partnerships.
One of them was Lyft, a leader in the taxi market. The collaboration between Lyft and Aptiv resulted in 50,000 races with autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas in June 2019. A service that was suspended following the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Americas, but which resumed earlier this month.
The Motional and Via partnership operates on the same basis as this Aptiv and Lyft partnership. The latter is a platform responsible for managing the reservation, routing, allocation and identification of passengers and vehicles, the customer experience and fleet management. Information about public transport and possible connections is also transmitted.
However, Hyundai’s service is not considered to be “driverless” service. All autonomous vehicles have a driving safety operator. In contrast, the service bills users, which indicates that companies are trying to understand all aspects of running a viable business.
Karl Iagnemma, CEO of Motional, evokes appropriate timing, arguing that the concept of taxi transportation applications is well established and ready to take a new step.
“Taxi transportation apps that are used by more than a third of the American population today hardly existed ten years ago. Awareness, then familiarity, then personal experience has taken us from fleets of luxurious black cars to global ubiquity. We know the public wants driverless technology. By leveraging the familiarity and breadth of carpools and their brands, we can begin to blend in with already established habits. “
A structured market with already increased competition
However, for Hyundai, the autonomous taxi market also includes other players that are already well established. Waymo has held the rope in the front row for several years. The Alphabet subsidiary has just launched its fleet of autonomous taxis in Phoenix, which are open to the public. Waymo is also pursuing an aggressive partnership strategy, including partnering with Volvo to make self-driving taxis for the automaker. The industry leader definitely has the funds to achieve its ambitions after raising more than $ 2 billion last March.
Zoox, a startup that Amazon bought for a billion dollars, also has the famous Level 4 license to test its autonomous vehicles. A license obtained in September that should anticipate the predominant place Jeff Bezos’ company wants to occupy in this market.
Finally, the Chinese company AutoX launched its autonomous taxi service in Shanghai last August. Didi Chuxing’s robot taxis have been driving on the streets of the Chinese metropolis since August 2019.