Operating the world’s longest-standing public self-driving ride-hailing service has taught us what it takes to deliver safe, reliable, and accessible autonomous mobility at scale – and benefit businesses, visitors, and residents.
When you’ve provided more than 100,000 self-driving rides – and earned five-star ratings from 98% of the paying customers – you learn a lot about how to operate a successful service. When we introduced our self-driving service in Las Vegas with Lyft in May 2018, paid rides in autonomous vehicles had never before been offered on a major ride-hail network.
By operating a public service in a location as diverse and dynamic as Las Vegas – we've gained valuable insight that’s allowed us to improve the experience and our technology. Our partnership with Lyft also lets us receive direct feedback from riders on what they expect and want to know about the technology.
In addition, we learned to work with local officials on how to integrate the service into their regional and transportation infrastructure. And we’ve uncovered how to best engage with the communities in which we operate and answer businesses' and residents’ questions on the service, autonomous technology, and how it can benefit them.
The Motional-Lyft autonomous vehicle ride hailing service allows anyone in Las Vegas requesting eligible rides with the Lyft app to summon a self-driving ride. Riders are able to give the experience a star rating, as with any Lyft ride, and provide written feedback.
While many riders provide feedback, they often focus on the overall experience more than on the technology. Most of their comments, for example, are on issues such as whether there’s enough trunk space for luggage and how many people can comfortably fit in the backseat, as with a human-piloted trip. This rider feedback reaffirms our view that operating an autonomous service isn’t just about driverless technology and getting safely from Point A to Point B, but the full end-to-end customer experience.
Las Vegas Partners
While the ride is seamless and similar to a human-piloted Lyft vehicle for passengers, it takes lots of behind-the-scenes effort and preparation to make the experience a reality. Operating a robotaxi service at scale can’t occur without strong, cooperative relationships with local officials – and learning together.
Our Las Vegas area partners were essential in helping Motional bring our groundbreaking new mobility option to the city, the region, its residents and the millions of visitors that travel to the Entertainment Capital of the World annually. Fortunately, the launch of our service coincided with the introduction of an Innovation District by the City of Las Vegas that allows testing emerging public safety, infrastructure, and connected and autonomous vehicles technologies in a real-world setting.
Motional also worked with the City of Las Vegas, Clark County, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, and other local and state agencies to install more than 100 Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) transponders at intersections. DSRC technology allows for communication between public infrastructure such as traffic lights and Motional vehicles to provide a safer and smoother rider experience.
Engaging with the Community
To ensure an effective deployment and service for all stakeholders, Motional engaged with local businesses to discover the best pick-up and drop-off locations and other vital information. “Because we provide access to more than 3,600 popular destinations in Las Vegas, it’s essential to be connected to the local business community,” says Abe Ghabra, Motional’s Vice President, Global Operations.
In addition, Motional worked with first responders and various Las Vegas community groups to help residents become familiar with robotaxis, get their input, and make sure the service adds value. Motional held ride-alongs, invited groups to Motional’s Las Vegas Technical Center, and sponsored community learning sessions to educate community members on where its vehicles operate and answer any questions.
Building Trust in Autonomous Vehicles
Last fall, we announced a landmark agreement with Lyft to expand beyond Las Vegas and launch a fully driverless service in multiple markets starting in 2023.
“We’re at the frontier of transportation innovation, moving robotaxis from research to road,” says Motional President and CEO Karl Iagnemma. “Our aim is to not only build safe, reliable, and accessible driverless vehicles, but to deliver them at significant scale. We’re partnering with Lyft to do exactly that,” he adds.
Motional and Lyft are accumulating unique real-world experience and expertise on what it takes to not only combine autonomous vehicles and ridesharing networks but also to integrate into the larger mobility landscape. At the same time, we’re building consumer trust in autonomous-vehicle technology – one ride at a time – and with more than 100,000 rides and counting.