Several years ago, the company was the first to offer self-driving rideshares, with a safety operator, to the general public, in partnership with Lyft. Lots people have used Lyft to fetch a self-driving robotaxi up and down the Las Vegas Strip. In most cases, however, the human safety operator took over driving responsibility in the most complex environments, such as hotel drop-off lanes.
Motional’s move to full driverless testing has been a step removed from the Lyft pilot, although both take place in Las Vegas. The driverless testing, though, occurs in the quieter, residential areas of the city, and does not yet involve passengers.
The driverless tests involve a safety “steward” onboard, in the passenger seat, who can stop the vehicle in an emergency. In this regard, Motional’s testing represents a kind of “intermediate” step between safety operators and a completely empty vehicle.
Another interesting aspect of the Motional test is their partnership with TUV SUD, a renowned European safety certification company. The details are vague, but TUV has conducted an audit of Motional’s safety practices and “supports” the current testing protocol.
As part of the announcement, Motional also highlighted plans to launch a public driverless service with Lyft in 2023.
“In 2023, Motional and Lyft will launch a scalable, fully-driverless, multimarket service — the largest agreement of its kind for a major ridesharing network, and a quantum leap forward for an already successful partnership.”