Uber started offering self-driving taxis in Las Vegas this week. The American taxi service is entering into a partnership with Motional for this.
The collaboration with Motional will run for a period of 10 years and concerns the supply of hardware and software for self-driving vehicles. At the start, the vehicles are able to drive autonomously, but a safety driver is still temporarily sent along. The driver must disappear in 2023, according to Uber.
Rides with Motional and Uber autonomous vehicles are currently free. The intention is that customers will eventually have to pay for the service. When that tipping point follows, the taxi service did not take into account. This free Uber service should probably also mainly serve as a temptation to attract customers of Uber competitor Lyft to Uber’s autonomous vehicles. Lyft also works with Motional in Las Vegas for its range of autonomous rides.
Meanwhile, Motional is working on an expansion to California. The joint venture of Hyundai and Aptiv has now applied for the necessary permits to offer its autonomous taxi service. It is likely that Uber will not work with that party when Motional comes to California; the tech giant has already had a ten-year partnership with Nuro there.
Uber robot taxis
Uber seems to be slowly recovering after the tragedy in 2017, in which a woman was killed in an accident with an autonomous vehicle from the taxi service. However, after that accident, the service decided not to develop autonomous vehicles or services itself. That market is now being fully colored by expert parties such as Motional and Nuro. An impossible task to compete against, Lyft decided in 2021. The taxi service sold its autonomous branch to Toyota.
We do not have to hope for a European expansion of such taxi services for the time being. Few cities welcome the arrival of such vehicles. Moreover, the legislation in most European countries is not prepared for autonomous vehicles. For example, it remains mandatory for Teslas, if they are in autopilot mode, to keep one hand on the wheel. Such a rule would also apply to taxi services, which would therefore be obliged to send a safety driver.