Lyft’s robotaxi service goes live in Las Vegas

17 Aug 2022

Motional's Ioniq 5 autonomous vehicle. Image: Motional

The robotaxi service is the next step as Lyft and Motional look to launch a fully driverless service in Las Vegas next year.

Lyft and autonomous vehicle company Motional are bringing self-driving robotaxis to Las Vegas.

It is part of a partnership that will use Motional’s all-electric robotaxis to provide driverless ride-hail operations on the Lyft network.

The companies have been trialling autonomous rides in Las Vegas since 2018, with more than 100,000 rides completed to date. Now they are launching an all-electric robotaxi service to the public.

While the vehicles will have a safety driver for now, the launch is the next step in Lyft and Motional’s plan to launch a fully driverless service in Las Vegas next year. The partner companies then plan to scale to multiple US cities in the future.

“Launching Motional’s all-electric Ioniq 5 on Lyft’s network in Las Vegas represents tremendous progress in our vision to make an electric, autonomous and shared future a reality for people everywhere,” Lyft CEO Logan Green said.

“We are designing an autonomous experience where the only expectation for riders is to relax and enjoy the ride.”

The companies said they have added new features based on research and customer feedback to let users control their ride without driver assistance.

This includes letting consumers unlock the doors through the Lyft app and start the ride, or contact customer support from the in-car Lyft AV app, which is designed for autonomous ride-sharing.

Motional president and CEO Karl Iagnemma said the two companies are on track for “widespread commercialisation” of fully autonomous vehicles.

“We’ve led the industry in commercial operations for years, and today’s launch signals we’re on track to deliver a fully driverless service next year,” Iagnemma said. “Riders in Las Vegas can now experience Motional’s Ioniq 5 AV that will make that service a reality.”

As the tech behind self-driving cars advances, regulators are taking steps to prepare for their arrival. The EU is developing technical rules to ensure automated vehicles are safe and technologically mature before they are placed on the market.

While this tech is advancing, it still has clear hurdles to overcome.

In June, self-driving car business Cruise became the first to secure approval to operate a commercial taxi service using driverless cars in California. However, a swarm of the company’s self-driving vehicles recently blocked several lanes of traffic at an intersection for hours, before Cruise employees arrived to fix the issue.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic