Two years after seemingly abandoning the dream of self-driving taxis, Uber has signed a deal to establish a line of autonomous vehicles.
- Uber has signed a deal with Motional—a joint venture from Hyundai Motor and Aptiv Plc.—to create a line of self-driving taxis.
- Motional will provide its IONIQ 5 robotaxis as an all-electric, autonomous taxi system for Uber’s ride-hailing service. The deal will last ten years.
- The agreement comes two years after Uber sold its own autonomous vehicle division of the company.
- Uber and Motional have an existing relationship through driverless food delivery services in Santa Monica.
- Driverless ride-share will be available in the U.S. later this year.
Why it’s news
Driverless taxis seem like a dream of the future, but with Uber and Motional’s partnership, that dream will become a reality.
Uber had previously abandoned its plans for self-driving taxis due to losses during pandemic-related shutdowns. Now that the world has opened back up, it seems Uber is giving autonomous taxis another try.
Advanced Technologies Group, Uber’s former division, had some success building and testing driverless vehicles. Tests were sent out in several U.S. and Canadian cities. However, the division suffered setbacks following a lawsuit after a fatal crash involving a test vehicle.
Uber’s competitor Lyft also sold its self-driving division to Toyota last year, choosing to focus on building profitability rather than gambing on new technology. By joining forces with existing companies, Uber and Lyft are able to continue pushing new tech forward without assuming all of the risks.
Lyft has unveiled driverless rides in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas.
Backing up a bit
Uber and Lyft aren’t the only companies investing in driverless taxi technology. Companies in China have already released a new line of autonomous vehicles.
In July, Baidu Inc., a Chinese-based company and the world’s largest robotaxi provider, announced that its newest fully autonomous vehicle, the Apollo RT6, will be released in 2023. The all-electric vehicle is designed for urban environments and will be part of Baidu’s ride-sharing service Apollo Go.
Baidu recently received approval to release its driverless vehicles on the road in two Chinese cities—Wuhan and Chongqing. Before the approval, driverless taxis were required to have a human driver in the vehicle. Now, passengers may find themselves stepping into an empty vehicle that will drive them to their destination.
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, reached a similar agreement with San Francisco officials in June of this year.
Cruise plans to launch 30 vehicles in the next few months. Before receiving approval, the vehicles were required to have a driver who could take over in case of emergency. The vehicles are now allowed to operate without a driver in certain areas of the city, provided they stay at certain speed limits.
Other driverless-taxis such as Alphabet’s Waymo also operate in the U.S. with varying restrictions depending on the city.