Uber and Motional announced Wednesday they’re kicking off their self-driving offering in Las Vegas, two months after the companies inked a 10-year deal to offer driverless rides and deliveries.
Customers aren’t able to book the autonomous vehicles directly. Rather, they’ll have to select the “UberX” or “Uber Comfort Electric” options for a chance to be matched with a Motional vehicle. If one of its self-driving cars is available, customers will have to opt-in before the trip is confirmed and sent to pick them up.
Initially, the companies aren’t charging for the autonomous rides, though they plan to charge for the driverless commercial launch later on. The offering is launching with safety drivers behind the wheel, though Uber says it intends to launch a fully autonomous service in 2023. The two companies also plan on expanding the offering to Los Angeles but didn’t provide a specific timeframe.
The launch pushes Uber into a new era of self-driving, exactly two years after the company sold its self-driving unit to Aurora Innovation. Rideshare companies, including Uber and Lyft, have long looked at automation as a way to cut down on costs and speed up service.
Travis Kalanick, cofounder and former CEO of Uber, was convinced self-driving was an essential investment since he viewed autonomous vehicles as the future of transportation. Still, efforts have proven costly and yielded mixed results as well as a host of safety concerns, leading companies to sell off their segments and look to outside partners for help.
“It’s a testament to our technology and the power of our partnership with Uber that we’re able to go from concept to consumer in such a short time,” Akshay Jaising, Motional’s VP of commercialization, said in a statement.
Motional already offers rideshare rides in its Hyundai IONIQ 5-based robotaxis via Lyft in Las Vegas, with plans to become fully driverless next year. The two companies also announced an expansion to Los Angeles last month.