Hyundai is launching its first robot taxi service called BotRide on November 4th in Irvine, California. Hyundai has partnered with AV startup Pony.ai and ride-hailing service Via for accomplishing this free taxi service. Hyundai is going to use the autonomous electric cars for this free-hailing service.
The Hyundai Company developed the idea of BotRide after the announcement of South Korea that it will invest $35 billion in autonomous electric vehicle development in the coming year. This self-riding taxi can be booked by using the smartphone application. Hyundai says that the service is not completely driverless and that a safety driver will be sitting in the front by the steering wheel. The safety driver will be watching the road.
Another engineer will be sitting in the passenger seat, and he will be monitoring the electronic systems. Hyundai spokesman said, “They’ll work as a team”. Mile Johnson in a phone interview, said that the operators would take charge if necessary. The automaker said the vehicle will cover “several residential, commercial, and institutional points of interest” and will be within a geofenced area in Irvine.
The Hyundai Kona SUVs is going to be used for the robot taxi service, which is equipped with Pony.ai’s latest sensor hardware and proprietary software which helps to “identify the precise position of surrounding vehicles, handle pedestrian traffic in urban areas, accurately monitor its surroundings, predict the behavior of other road users, and precisely plan actions accordingly”, Hyundai says.Source
The only company to launch a self-driving car is Hyundai. But following this, many companies plan to launch the service. Say, Toyota is planning to launch the service in Tokyo targeting the Summer Olympics, which is to be held in 2020 in Tokyo. The AV startup Zoox will also be launching their service in Las Vegas, and the Didi Chuxing is going to avail this service in China starting in 2021. Ford also is planning to launch the self-driving car service in the US in 2021. The release date of the autonomous ride-hailing service launching of the company GM is also pushed beyond 2020.
Moreover, unlike other company, Hyundai is receiving Government backing in South Korea asking to boost its efforts in the AV and EV space. According to Reuters, the Government of South Korea intends to spend 1.7 trillion won between 2021 and 2027 on the self-driving technology. It wants Hyundai to launch level 4, or fully autonomous cars for fleet customers by 2024 and for the general public by 2027.
The Companies with the permission to execute the ride-hailing service in the state of California are AutoX, Pony.ai, Waymo, and Zoox. Via will also be taking care of the features such as passenger, booking, vehicle assignment and vehicle identification. Via is the expert in availing the service of user’s sharing their rides with another rider; this feature is included in BotRide where users can share their rides if the destination or route is same. This is convenient for users as it will save time and money.
Hyundai says that they will be “validating its user experience in preparation for a fully driverless service”. The completely driverless feature will be coming soon, but Hyundai didn’t say when it will arrive. Hyundai also says that the Pony.ai and Via play the heavy jobs. Also that Pony.ai raised $300 million with the partnership of Tokyo and China on a $1.7 billion valuation.
We also need to note that, Pony.ai has both the permit of California Department of Motor Vehicles which gives permission to test these cars on public roads and permission from the California Public Utilities Commission which permits to use vehicles in a free-hailing service. But, under the rules established by the CPUC, Pony.ai is restricted to charge money for the rides.
Christopher Chang, strategy and technology division, Hyundai Motor Company, said, “The pilot introduces BotRide to several hundred Irvine residents, including college students. The goal is to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ride-sharing environment. We are going to learn about ecosystems, where the vehicles travel and optimize the customer experience”.