Las Vegas residents and tourists alike can now request a ride in Motional’s Ioniq 5 RoboTaxi, a 5-seater vehicle produced by Hyundai and equipped with Motional’s own self-driving system. The Ioniq 5 has all the flashy features a wide-eyed rideshare app user could want: 18.8 cubic feet of storage space for riders’ luggage, futuristic parametric pixel lights, and the type of auto flush door handles you’d normally see on a Tesla. Its sleek design is eye-catching enough for those who want to be seen yet conventional enough for those who don’t—except, perhaps, for the spinning cameras that jut out of the vehicle’s sides and roof.
Motional’s technology itself is considered by SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) to have level 4 “high driving” automation, the second-highest level of autonomy a vehicle can possess. But the vehicle needs to “see” the world around it in order to safely bring a rider from point A to point B without a driver’s help. It does this using 30 camera, radar, and lidar sensors that work together to create a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s environment. Motional says these sensors help the vehicle detect small movements or objects nearby, which is vital for an autonomous vehicle navigating such a busy and unpredictable environment as Las Vegas.
Lyft’s partnership with Motional began in 2018 when the two companies collaborated to bring conventional self-driving vehicles to Las Vegas. Together they’ve facilitated over 100,000 autonomous rides with a 95 percent enjoyment rate—but they’ve all been powered by fossil fuels. With the IONIQ 5, Lyft and Motional are able to bring “sustainable mobility” to Sin City. Riders are already able to request a trip in the IONIQ 5 in the Las Vegas metro area.
This is just the beginning: Lyft and Motional plan to launch a fully driverless service plan next year. It’s unclear how this differs from the IONIQ 5’s debut or whether this means human-driven cars will no longer be an option in areas using the plan. However, Lyft has said the fully driverless plan will be tested in Las Vegas before making it out to other US cities.
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