Motional has announced it is operating driverless vehicles on public roads, becoming one of the world’s first companies to do so. The inaugural testing took place in Las Vegas this month and consisted of multiple driverless vehicles safely navigating intersections, unprotected turns, and interactions with other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

TÜV SÜD was given access to the company’s proprietary systems, technology, and operations.  Upon completion of its assessment, TÜV SÜD provided Motional with a first-of-its-kind endorsement to operate with an empty driver’s seat.  The state of Nevada granted Motional permission to do so last November.

Following extensive progress in 2020, Motional has firmly established itself as the ridesharing industry’s robotaxi fleet provider of choice, and is uniquely positioned to commercialize driverless technology. It is the sole driverless technology provider to have partnerships with two ridesharing leaders, including an agreement to launch the largest robotaxi deployment for a major ridesharing network.

Building public trust in driverless vehicles is critical.  The technology has the power to save millions of lives, but for this potential to become a reality, the general public must trust and adopt it.   Motional’s process went the extra mile to demonstrate the safety of its systems, and build consumer confidence.

During its 18-month review of Motional’s systems, TÜV SÜD’s experts interviewed employees,  reviewed detailed safety architecture designs, analyzed testing processes and results, scrutinized training procedures, and reviewed the qualifications and skill of the team. The resulting first-of-its-kind endorsement is a testament to the soundness of Motional’s technology.  It supports Motional’s driverless testing in its operational design domain, with a safety steward in the passenger seat.  Safety stewards monitor the route, and have the ability to stop the vehicle.  They have not had to do so during Motional’s driverless operations.   

This external review was just one part of Motional’s industry-leading safety evaluation process, which the company detailed in its Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA). Throughout the process, Motional covered enough distance to circumnavigate the world multiple times.  This testing was in addition to the 1.5 million miles Motional had already driven across a diverse set of road environments, cities, and vehicle platforms. 

Testing took place on public roads with a safety operator, as well as on closed courses with and without a safety operator.  Motional vehicles navigated thousands of challenging scenarios.  These involved:

  • Human-driven cars and other autonomous vehicles
  • Pedestrians, cyclists, and other road actors
  • Busy intersections and unprotected turns
  • A wide range of traffic and road conditions
  • Safely-staged edge cases on closed courses 

At the Intersection of Technological and Commercial Capability

Developing an advanced driverless system that can safely navigate roads is a monumental accomplishment, but it’s only part of the equation.  The technology must also have clear, scalable paths to market to fulfill its potential — and Motional’s commercial ridesharing experience and capability are unparalleled. 

In 2023, Motional and Lyft will launch a scalable, fully-driverless, multimarket service — the largest agreement of its kind for a major ridesharing network, and a quantum leap forward for an already successful partnership.  Lyft and Motional operate the world’s longest-standing commercial robotaxi service, and have provided more than 100,000 rides with zero at-fault incidents.