There has been a $4 billion joint venture between automotive tech company Aptiv and South Korean conglomerate Hyundai. The joint company is called Motional. As a reminder, Aptiv and Hyundai partnered up to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service.
That’s how Motional was formed. And the company has been testing its robotaxis in partnership with Lyft for close to a year now. And those tests must have gone very well. Motional just announced that its robotaxi program will expand globally through the Lyft app starting in 2023. That’s just 15 months away. What’s more, the joint venture company just revealed its Ioniq 5 electric SUV. This is the vehicle that the robotaxi service will go live with:
What I like about this is that Motional is not trying to be all things to all people. As we can see from this image, it hasn’t tried to hide or skimp on the sensors. That likely reduces the car’s aesthetic appeal for many people, but Motional is not going after the consumer market. Instead, Motional designed the Ioniq SUV exclusively as a robotaxi. It’s not for retail sale. Therefore the look simply doesn’t matter that much.
What matters is how functional and safe the car is. And that’s why Motional went heavy on the self-driving sensors. This is something of a break in the industry. The trend has been toward reducing sensors – both to increase visual appeal and to reduce the cost of production. However, Motional doesn’t have to worry as much about the cost of production because it’s not competing in the consumer market.
The Ioniq will generate revenue by participating in autonomous ride-hailing services. That’s its only function. And we should note that Motional has been testing its robotaxis in Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Singapore. These cars are on the road in these cities as we speak. And by 2023, Motional will formally launch these robotaxis over a much wider range of geographic areas.
So Motional is a company that we will be keeping a close eye on going forward. I expect progress will happen quickly and, depending on where you live, you might have access to these cars through Lyft much sooner than you might think. I’m excited to see how quickly these Ioniq autonomous SUVs are rolled out across the country.
This is just one more proof point that self-driving cars are not five or 10 years away, as many analysts and industry “experts” have predicted. On the contrary, they are already here. And that’s only going to become more evident over the next 18 months.
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