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Lyft Partners With Motional to Commercialize Autonomous Taxis

Published on Dec 18, 2020 at 8:09 am in News.

Just a week after Uber announced the selling of its autonomous vehicle division, Lyft has partnered with Motional and expects customers will be able to use its app to hail cars without drivers starting in 2023. Motional Inc. is an autonomous driving joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Plc.

The new partnership expands the 2018 arrangement, with ran paid self-driving taxi pilot rides in Las Vegas. Unlike those tests, the next iteration will operate in more complicated urban environments and include no human drivers. In theory, that means the rides would eventually be cheaper to run.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Raji Kapoor, Lyft’s chief strategy officer and head of its self-driving efforts, said, “We’ve come up with a business model that’s profitable at scale for both companies. […] Maybe the goal posts will move to 2024 or 2025, but this is the goal post we and our partners feel comfortable with.”

Companies and investors have acknowledged that fully autonomous cars will take more time and money than previously projected. That, however, has not stopped companies like Lyft from pursuing goals of self-driving rideshare vehicles.

According to Motional Chief Executive Officer Karl Iagnemma, the arrangement will expedite the expansion of its current fleet of more than 100 self-driving cars: “This agreement marks the largest robotaxi deployment partnership for a major ridesharing network and is a quantum leap from Motional’s current partnership with Lyft.”

For Motional, the non-exclusive partnership with Lyft will provide it with an already-existent customer base and the ability to move from research and development to commercialization quickly. Motional was announced earlier this year as a $4 billion joint venture.

Lyft is not the only company making moves to implement autonomous vehicles. In October, General Motors Co.’s Cruise LLC got the go-ahead to test fully driverless cars in San Francisco. In addition to that, Google’s Waymo expanded its autonomous vehicles to all Phoenix customers. Also, Amazon’s self-driving unit Zoox announced that it would launch a driverless ride-hailing vehicle in San Francisco and Las Vegas; however, it didn’t provide a date. And while Uber did sell its driverless research division, it also took a large stake in the startup and guaranteed its vehicles will operate on its own network when they eventually launch.

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