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Motional moves to driverless vehicle testing

Boston-based company also announces endorsement of top global technical organization

Motional, the Hyundai-backed autonomous vehicle developer, announced that it is now testing vehicles with no driver in the seat. (Photo: Motional)

With agreements in place with ridesharing companies Via and Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT), and backed by the expertise of Hyundai Motor Corp. (LSE: HYUD.LN) and Aptiv, Motional has taken another step in its desire to be the autonomous vehicle of choice. The company announced that it not only is testing driverless vehicles – with no drivers – on roadways but that it has secured a key outside endorsement of its product from consulting firm TÜV SÜD.

“Not all driverless systems are created equal. Ours is the product of decades of innovation, a relentless commitment to safety and process, more than a million miles of testing and a rigorous external review,” Karl Iagnemma, president and CEO of Motional, said. “We’re one of the first companies in the world to go driverless. It’s a significant step on our path to making driverless vehicles a safe, reliable and accessible reality and a proud day for Motional.”

Motional announced it is actively testing driverless vehicles in Las Vegas – without anyone in the driver’s seat. The Boston-based autonomous vehicle company began the testing this month. To reach this point, Motional has accumulated 1.5 million miles of testing and a two-year safety evaluation process that took hundreds of employees more than 100,000 hours to complete. To ensure the process was rigorous and effective, the company sought external review from TÜV SÜD, an independent technical service provider with extensive experience assessing driverless technology. Motional gave the company access to the company’s proprietary systems, technology and operations. 

TÜV SÜD endorsed Motional’s ability to operate safely with no one in the driver’s seat. The state of Nevada in November granted Motional permission to test driverless vehicles. The vehicles operate with a “safety steward” in the passenger seat. The steward has the ability to stop the vehicle, but Motional said as of yet, a steward has not had to intervene.

Read: Lyft sees its future, and it is autonomous and B2B focused

Motional is working with ridesharing companies Via and Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT), and Lyft is confident that it will be able to start deploying Motional vehicles on select routes by 2023. To date, more than 100,000 autonomous rides have been offered with zero at-fault incidents, Motional said.

“We believe the future of transportation is as-a-service, and we are the only company in North America that has a seamless multimodal transportation platform that can replace car ownership,” Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green said during the company’s Feb. 9 earnings call. “We expect autonomous vehicles to accelerate this transition. They will transform the ridesharing industry and their business.”

Before issuing its endorsement, TÜV SÜD officials spent 18 months reviewing Motional’s systems, interviewing employees, reviewing safety architecture designs and analyzing testing processes and results.

Motional is a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, a technology provider.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]