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Like it or Not, Self Driving Cars will be here Sooner Than you Think. Motional and Waymo, Uber and Lyft Move Toward Autonomous Vehicles

After Uber and Lyft go driverless, fees for drivers will go down. A robot driver will show up on time and not decline the ride. Brave new future.

You may have noticed SUV's with the Motional and Uber logos driving up and down Washington Avenue North of Wilshire in Santa Monica. They are also to be found elsewhere in SM, as is their competitor, Google owned WAYMO.

Automated driving system development company Motional is expanding its operations in California, and already moves passengers on the Las Vegas strip. They are now an option on the Strip when you order Uber. This according to two testing supervisors, Kenly and Lyndon, whom we met near Peet's Coffee on Montana.

I told them that I was a big fan of self driving vehicles, but what would they say to others who are skeptical. " I would say, you fly, don't you? Then you've already been in a self driving vehicle. After the pilot takes off, they put it on Auto-pilot, and you fly across country. It (Motional) is the same thing."

In Las Vegas, anyone using the Uber or Lyft ride-hailing app gets the option to select an automated vehicle if one is available nearby when a ride is requested. "The human ride-sharing driver can cancel on you, but Motional will never cancel on you or decline the ride. That's an advantage," said Kenly. Lyndon noted that Uber will be able to lower its fees, once self-driving vehicles are more common.

Both men agreed that in the future, self driving vehicles will be able to communicate with other self driving vehicles, to reduce accidents and increase efficiency.

Motional was formed in 2020 as a joint venture between Hyundai and supplier Aptiv, says Forbes Magazine. In 2018, Motional (then under the Aptiv brand) started one of the first commercial ride-hailing services using automated vehicles in partnership with Lyft in Las Vegas. In 2022, it began testing vehicles in the Santa Monica area, after the City approved a pilot program.

Motional has had an office in Santa Monica since 2016 where engineers have been working on machine learning and hardware for the automated systems, reports Forbes. Their facility includes a vehicle service depot and bring a test fleet to the area for the first time. Motional test drivers are collecting data to build high-definition maps of Santa Monica last year. They now have vehicles operating in automated mode. 

Motional also has vehicles operating in Boston where it is based, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Singapore. The Singapore effort is part of a pilot program to provide first mile/last mile services that connect local residents to transit stations and has been operating since 2016.


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