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Motional and Via launch a free robotaxi shuttle in Las Vegas

Safety drivers and pre-determined pickup and drop-off locations

Motional and Via are teaming up to launch a free robotaxi shuttle service in Las Vegas. The news comes almost a year and a half after the two companies announced their intention to link up to study how autonomous vehicles could interact with public transit networks.

Motional is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv that has been testing its vehicles in Las Vegas and California. Via is a transit software company that formerly operated on-demand vehicles in New York City and Washington, DC. Together, the two companies say they will launch an autonomous shuttle service in Las Vegas that will be free to use.

As of today, Motional’s robotaxis are available on Via’s smartphone app for passengers in downtown Las Vegas. The service will operate from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday. The vehicles are BMW 5-series sedans and not the Hyundai Ioniq 5 electric SUV, which Motional says will be its future vehicle of choice for its robotaxi service.

The vehicles will include a safety driver in the front seat, and pickup and drop-off locations will be pre-determined. The locations, which will be highlighted in Via’s app, include RTC Bonneville Transit Center, Las Vegas City Hall, Container Park, Las Vegas Arts District, and Clark County Government Center.

Las Vegas is no stranger to autonomous vehicles and shuttles. The city routinely plays host to a variety of companies testing their vehicles along the Las Vegas strip and other locales, especially during the annual Consumer Electronics Show. There have also been several robot shuttle services, most notably the one operated by Keolis that was involved in a low-speed crash in 2017.

Motional is not exclusively working with Via, too. The company plans on launching a commercial robotaxi service in 2023. The service, which will likely 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 that spun out of auto parts supplier 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, California.

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.