Motional and Uber Technologies announced Thursday a 10-year agreement to bring fully driverless rides and autonomous delivery to Uber’s customers.
In a press release, the companies said they will deploy the service in cities across the U.S., with the first trips expected to start later this year. Motional and Uber each declined to specify which cities will see driverless ride service first, in response to inquiries from Smart Cities Dive.
A spokesperson for Motional, which develops Level 4 autonomous vehicles for ride-hail and delivery networks, said the company believes “this will be the largest robotaxi deployment on a major ride-hail network.”
The agreement builds on a partnership between Motional and Uber Eats for autonomous food delivery, which launched in Santa Monica, California, earlier this year.
“We’re excited to leverage the power of Uber’s platform to help reimagine the ways people and goods move around cities,” said Noah Zych, global head of autonomous mobility and delivery at Uber, in an email. “Through our partnership with Motional, we aspire to optimize AV operations and bring more electric vehicles to U.S. roads – creating cleaner, less congested transportation for cities and riders.”
As part of the agreement, Uber will share select information to allocate and position Motional’s vehicles efficiently, in a way that reduces vehicle downtime and unnecessary miles traveled. Smarter operations also translate into a better experience for Uber customers, ultimately leading to reduced wait times and lower fares, the companies said.
The latest Uber partnership "creates a clear path for robotaxi adoption," said Phil Vidal, senior director of business development at Motional, in an emailed statement.
Uber competitor Lyft also partners with Motional on autonomous rides in Las Vegas, with fully driverless rides set to begin next year. Lyft also offers autonomous rides in the cities of Austin, Texas, and Miami. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., operates autonomous rides in Phoenix and San Francisco. General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise began fully self-driving rides in San Francisco earlier this year.