Motional, the autonomous vehicle company that is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, is growing its presence in Las Vegas as it gears up to launch a commercial robotaxi service in 2023.
The company is tripling the size of its closed-course testing facility, doubling its operations center, and hiring over 100 new employees. The larger testing facility will allow for “four times” the volume of testing, including new “high-stress situations,” such as high speeds, complex urban maneuvers, different lighting conditions, and light to heavy rain — all of which have been known to flummox autonomous vehicles.
The vehicle that will be put through this new, rigorous battery of tests will be the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which Motional has said will be the primary vehicle for its robotaxi fleet. The company recently unveiled the first images of the Ioniq 5 with rooftop lidar sensors and other equipment that will allow 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 to prepare Motional’s AV software for the launch of a commercial robotaxi service in 2023. The service, which is likely to kick off in Las Vegas, will be available on Lyft’s ride-hailing app, after that company sold off its own 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 on developing a commercial business around autonomous vehicles. Aptiv, a technology company formerly known as Delphi, owns 50 percent of the venture. 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, Calif.
Motional’s engineers were responsible for the world’s first robotaxi pilot in Singapore, as well as the first cross-country New York to San Francisco autonomous trip. Over the last several years, Aptiv’s — and now Motional’s — fleet of safety driver-monitored autonomous taxis in Las Vegas (in partnership with Lyft) have completed “over 100,000 trips.” Earlier this year, the company began testing vehicles without a human monitor behind the steering wheel.