Uber announced on Thursday a 10-year partnership with autonomous vehicle-maker Motional to offer driverless rides using the company’s electric robotaxis in the US. Motional’s IONIQ 5-based robotaxis will be available to riders booking an UberX or Uber Comfort Electric.
The move is Uber’s first foray into robotaxis within its rideshare segment since the company sold off its own self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group, to Aurora in December 2020. The first trips with Motional’s robotaxis are expected later this year, though there’s no word yet on where the service will be offered.
Uber and Motional already have a strong relationship, having partnered on food delivery earlier this year in Santa Monica, California, where some Eats orders are being delivered by the IONIQ robotaxis.
Uber says that the deal will make vehicles more readily available for users, translating to reduced wait times and lower fares. The rideshare giant says it plans to partner with multiple third-party autonomous companies as its mobility business grows, including Aurora (in which Uber holds a 26% ownership stake).
Automotive tech supplier Aptiv and Hyundai launched Motional in 2020 as a joint venture to commercialize autonomous driving technology, hoping to catch up to other competitors in the area. Thursday’s announcement marks the company’s latest high-profile rideshare partnership. Motional and Lyft launched its IONIQ 5-based robotaxis on the Uber competitor’s network in Las Vegas in August. Motional also launched in February a robotaxi service with Via for free self-driving rides in Las Vegas.
The company’s network of Hyundai IONIQ 5s, an all-electric, midsize crossover utility vehicle, have been integrated with its driverless system. The vehicles are equipped with Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities, meaning the vehicle can drive itself within a geofenced area and doesn’t require a person behind the wheel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Bursztynsky is a staff writer for Fast Company, covering the gig economy and other consumer internet companies. She previously covered tech and breaking news for CNBC.