Motional, the autonomous vehicle company that is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, is expanding its presence in Las Vegas as it prepares to launch a commercial robotic taxi service in 2023.
The company is tripling the size of its closed-course testing facility, doubling its operations center and hiring more than 100 new employees. The larger test facility will allow “four times” the volume of testing, including new “high-stress situations” such as high speeds, complex urban maneuvers, varying lighting conditions and light to heavy rain – all of which are known to excite self-driving vehicles.
The vehicle that will be subjected to this new rigorous set of tests is the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which Motional has said will be the primary vehicle for its robotic axi fleet. The company recently unveiled the first images of the Ioniq 5 with lidar sensors on the roof and other equipment that allows it to operate autonomously. The company will also increase the size of its test fleet as it expands its testing capabilities.
All of this is aimed at preparing Motional’s AV software for the launch of a commercial robotic axi service in 2023. The service, which is likely to launch in Las Vegas, will be available on Lyft’s ride-hailing app, after that company sold its own service AV technology development program to Toyota for $550 million last year.
Motional as a joint venture was first announced in March 2020, when Hyundai said it would spend $1.6 billion developing a commercial business around autonomous vehicles. Aptiv, a technology company formerly known as Delphi, owns 50 percent of the company. The company currently has facilities in Las Vegas, Singapore and Seoul and has also tested its vehicles in Boston and Pittsburgh. In addition to Las Vegas, Motional is also testing its vehicles in Santa Monica, California.
Motional’s engineers were responsible for the world’s first robotic axi pilot in Singapore, as well as the first cross-country Autonomous trip from New York to San Francisco. In recent years, Aptiv’s – and now Motional’s – fleet of safety driver-controlled autonomous taxis in Las Vegas (in partnership with Lyft) has completed “more than 100,000 trips.” Earlier this year, the company began testing vehicles without a human monitor behind the wheel.