Driverless testing begins in Las Vegas

Motional has joined the ranks of the driverless.

The company, a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, said Monday that it conducted autonomous-vehicle testing without a safety driver behind the wheel this month in Las Vegas.

Company executives did not release many specifics on where or when the milestone ride occurred. But they did say they used multiple vehicles that navigated intersections, unprotected turns and road environments containing pedestrians and bicyclists.

The ride reflected a graduated approach to safety — a human safety driver rode aboard in the passenger’s seat and had the capability to press an emergency-stop button if anything went awry.

“We’re one of the first companies in the world to go driverless,” Karl Iagnemma, Motional’s CEO, said in a written statement. “It’s a significant step on our path to making driverless vehicles a safe, reliable and accessible reality, and a proud day for Motional.”

In recent months, a number of companies have started driverless testing. But Motional’s test came with a first-of-its-kind safety endorsement from a third party. Leading up to the driverless test, the company hired TÜV SÜD, a global independent testing and certification provider, to conduct an 18-month review of its safety practices and protocols.

A green light following that independent review, plus a driverless testing permit issued by the state of Nevada in November, set the stage for the driverless test.

The testing lays further groundwork for the company’s planned 2023 launch of driverless robotaxi networks in multiple cities. In Las Vegas, Motional has been collaborating with ride-hailing service Lyft to embark upon just such a widespread deployment.

With its driverless testing, Motional joins the ranks of Waymo, Cruise, AutoX, Nuro, Voyage, Baidu and others that are conducting driverless testing on public roads.

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