Motional, a driverless technology developer, and Via, a public mobility solutions provider, have agreed a partnership that they say will “serve as a blueprint for the future of on-demand, shared robotaxis”.
Motional and Via seek to use learnings from the partnership to inform how driverless vehicles can be integrated into mass transit networks, and optimized for pooled rides.
The partnership’s first service – shared robotaxi rides, available to the public – is expected to launch in one of Motional’s existing US markets in the first half of 2021. The initial launch market will be announced at a later date.
Via and Motional say they share a long-term vision to change how the world moves, and are building the digital infrastructure to help self-driving vehicles reach their full potential as part of large-scale transit networks. This requires vehicles to be on-demand, optimally routed, and shared by multiple passengers.
Efficient utilization of self-driving vehicles will relieve congestion, improve environmental sustainability, and reduce operating costs for transit providers, while expanding transportation options for consumers.
The partnership will connect Motional’s self-driving vehicles with Via technology that powers booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience, and fleet management.
The result will be a highly-integrated, and autonomous, shared-ride system. In addition, the rider app will feature local public transit information, encouraging connection to local transit hubs through the service.
“We are excited to partner with Motional to make autonomous shared ride programs an affordable and efficient transportation alternative to the private vehicle,” said Daniel Ramot, Via co-founder and CEO.
“By combining groundbreaking on-demand mobility solutions with best-in-class technology for self-driving vehicles, we are creating new and necessary transit options for communities around the globe.”
Via and Motional are working closely on protective measures – such as PPE, partitions, frequent sanitizing, contact tracing, and more – to ensure the health and safety of vehicle occupants. These protective measures will follow public health and government guidelines.
The partnership is announced as consumer interest in driverless transportation grows in response to Covid-19 concerns. According to recent research, 70 percent of Americans say the risk of infection impacts their transportation choices, and one-in-five are more interested in self-driving vehicles than they were before the pandemic.
Karl Iagnemma, president and CEO, Motional, says: “This partnership comes at an especially significant moment, as Covid reshapes our views on transportation and consumers demand more, flexible, and varied options.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Via and jointly lay the foundations for self-driving shared rides. This is another step towards driverless technology reaching its full potential.”
Motional vehicles power the world’s most-established robotaxi fleet, a service that has safely conducted over 100,000 rides. Motional launched the world’s first public robotaxi pilot (in Singapore, 2016), and has long been at the forefront of driverless technology.
Passenger feedback has been consistently and overwhelmingly positive, says the company.
Via says it is the only mobility company with experience in developing software that integrates with multiple autonomous vehicle providers to introduce shared, dynamically routed, on-demand transportation.
Via has demonstrated its platform in Irvine, California for “BotRide”, and in integrated demonstrations with Navya and Aurrigo, and in its “BusBot” autonomous vehicle service in New South Wales, Australia.