US ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc and driverless tech-maker Motional said on Wednesday they launched their public robotaxi service in Las Vegas.
Tough regulatory scrutiny and delayed commercial adoption of autonomous vehicle technology have delayed deployment of robotaxi services, leaving investors worried.
The launch is part of a non-exclusive 10-year agreement between both the companies for driverless vehicles, with a rollout in Los Angeles expected to follow.
In the multi-market deal, Motional’s autonomous vehicles would also ferry both passengers and delivery items for Uber and its Uber Eats division.
Riders are currently not being charged as part of the early days of launch, Uber said in an interview with Reuters, but added that they plan to start charging for their driverless commercial launch.
The companies said they would have vehicle operators for now, although they are working to make a fully driverless experience available to the public by 2023.
If an autonomous vehicle is available to complete the trip, Uber will match the rider to the vehicle and they will receive an offer to opt-in before the autonomous trip is confirmed and dispatched to pick them up.
Uber is rekindling its robotaxi plans following a brief hiatus after selling its autonomous vehicle research division to San Francisco-based startup Aurora in 2020.
Uber has also signed a 10-year deal with autonomous driving startup Nuro to use the company’s driverless delivery pods in California and Texas.
Last month, rival Lyft said it would launch its robotaxi service in Los Angeles after it had rolled out in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Motional, which uses Hyundai Motor Co’s IONIQ5 electric car for the robotaxi service, is a joint venture between the South Korean manufacturer and automotive technology company Aptiv, and has been testing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers for a couple of years.