Motional which is a joint autonomous driving service run by both Aptiv and Hyundai on Tuesday announced their permission to test their autonomous cars in the state of Nevada without a human driver behind the wheel. The permission was granted based on the completion of a self-imposed testing and assessment period according to Motional.
Not so many companies have obtained this permit to test out driverless cars without the supervision of a human operator behind the wheels which is the main pillar of future self-driving taxi, delivery services and freight transportation services
Some big names in the autonomous industry includes the likes of GM-backed Cruise, Alphabet’s Waymo, AutoX, Nuro, and Amazon’s Zoox all which have the permission to remove human backup drivers from their cars, but only at certain speeds, on specific roads, and in optimal weather conditions while in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo in October opened up its fully driverless offering to all customers of Waymo One, the company’s commercial autonomous ride-hailing service.
In the case of Motional, the company stated it has studied the performance of its cars across thousands of miles and scenarios on public and private roads while partnering with safety assessors while planning to conduct driver-free vehicle tests on closed courses this year.
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If these tests go well, the company intends to put fully autonomous vehicles with “safety stewards” on the road in Nevada in the coming months. Safety stewards will sit in the passenger seat and have the ability to stop the car in the event of an emergency.
“The testing vehicles are part of our R&D efforts to develop fully driverless robo-taxi providers and fleet operators, available in 2022. While the testing vehicles have limitations, they are a useful part of our development,” Motional CTO Laura Major told VentureBeat via email. “We will be testing the fully driverless vehicles on public roads in Las Vegas in the coming months … We look forward to launching fully driverless services in the future.”
Motional earlier said it would resume a self-driving mobility service with Lyft in Las Vegas after it had to halt its operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Motional program is basically a continuation of Lyft’s two-years old partnership with Aptiv which is meant to launch a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the Lyft ride hailing service.
These service were available to Las Vegas public back in May 2018 on an opt-in basis but the program isn’t fully autonomous as safety drivers are usually behind the wheel during trips just in case.
In late October, Motional took the wraps off a collaboration with Via that the companies say will serve as a blueprint for an on-demand, shared robo-taxi service. Ahead of the partnership’s launch in the first half of 2021, Motional and Via say they will build infrastructure to connect Motional’s driverless vehicles with Via’s technology that powers booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience, and fleet management.
Meanwhile there have been predictions from experts stating the post-effect of the COVID-19 will be one of the reasons for the quick adoption of an autonomous system considering the way the pandemic had negatively impacted people coming together.
There have also been mixed results on surveys carried out by different organizations and example of such is the Partner for Automated Vehicle Education showing three in four Americans think autonomous cars aren’t ready just yet. Meanwhile Motional said one-fifth of its respondents stated that they’re more interested in autonomous vehicles than they were before the pandemic.