Uber announced the partnership with the self-driving car startup Motional on Wednesday. The two companies had signed a 10-year deal in October to offer driverless rides and have now launched the service in Las Vegas as the first step to bringing autonomous vehicles online.
“It’s a testament to our technology and the power of our partnership with Uber that we’re able to go from concept to consumer in such a short time,” Motional VP of Commercialization Akshay Jaising said in a press release. “Las Vegas is the first of many cities in which Motional’s AVs will become an everyday transportation option for Uber customers looking for a safe and convenient ride.”
Las Vegas users will not be able to book Motional vehicles directly. Instead, they will have to select either the “UberX” or “Uber Comfort Electric” options in the app to get a chance to be matched. Users will also be asked to opt-in to being picked up by one of Motional’s Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicles. The vehicles will first start with safety drivers behind the wheel but will eventually become fully autonomous in 2023.
Motional was founded in 2020 as a partnership between auto companies Hyundai and Aptiv to develop autonomous vehicle technology. The service will be available starting Wednesday. Users will initially not be charged if they ride in a Motional vehicle, although this may change later on.
Uber also hopes to launch its fleet of Motional vehicles in Los Angeles, although the company has not set a date for when it intends to do so. The autonomous vehicle company will have to split its attention between Lyft and Uber since it is now working with both companies to provide autonomous vehicles for testing.
Self-driving vehicles were a focus for Uber’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick, who saw it as the future of transportation. However, the technology has been slow to develop due to ongoing safety investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Uber’s competitor Lyft launched a similar partnership with Motional last month, and it aims to operate autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles after successful test runs in Las Vegas.