Make no mistake, the race to deliver a fully autonomous vehicles, transporting passengers (aka robotaxi) is well and truly on.
Motional, a driverless technology company is teaming up with Hyundai to turn their IONIQ 5 EV, into a robotaxi.
The IONIQ 5 looks to be a really competitive electric vehicle, with a design that received much praise from the industry, but that was for human drivers. Today we learn that the IONIQ 5 robotaxi will offer SAE Level 4 autonomous driving.
This means it can safely operate without a driver. This will take Motional’s technology and apply it to Hyundai’s car and will be the first commercial vehicle for the company. There’s a fairly agressive timeline on this announcement, with Motional planning to transport public passengers in the IONIQ 5 robotaxi in 2023.
Now enter Lyft.
Obviously booking rides in robotaxis requires a large piece of work and infrastructure that isn’t easy. Motional has decided to partner with Uber competitor Lyft for this piece of the autonomous puzzle.
From this shot of the inside of the IONIC5 robotaxi, it does look luxurious, particularly with the front passenger’s seat removed. We also see new displays and lights at the front and rear consoles which appear to act as notifications relating to the availability or expected passengers.
Introducing the IONIQ 5 Robotaxi
The IONIQ 5 robotaxi features a technology-driven design that celebrates the innovation behind the autonomous operation. The vehicle’s sensor suite is prominently displayed across the exterior, easily distinguishing the robotaxi from human-piloted vehicles.
The robotaxi has more than 30 sensors – a combination of cameras, radars, and lidar – that provide robust 360-degree perception, high-resolution images, and ultra-long range detection of objects for safe autonomous operation in diverse driving environments. The robotaxi will be outfitted with Motional’s proven driverless technology, which includes advanced machine learning systems – trained on decades of real-world data – that enables the vehicle to safely navigate challenging and complex driving situations.
Based on the Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), Hyundai Motor Group’s dedicated battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi’s interior provides passengers with a spacious, comfortable place to work, relax, or socialise during their driverless ride. The interior will also feature a suite of rider-focused interfaces to allow passengers to intuitively interact with the vehicle during their ride, such as directing the robotaxi to make an extra stop. The resulting passenger experience will set a new standard for driverless ride-hailing.
The Vehicle’s Development
Built from the ground-up to be fully driverless, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi was created through partnership between Motional and Hyundai Motor Group. The two companies worked hand-in-hand throughout the development, with each providing critical expertise: Motional in driverless technology and Hyundai in R&D capabilities and global vehicle manufacturing.
The end result is a seamless integration between the vehicle’s brain and body, with the hardware and autonomy working in sync for highly advanced, safe, and capable driverless operation. The IONIQ 5 robotaxi is built on the Group’s E-GMP, for ultra-fast charging and long-range driving, enabling the maximum utilisation of Motional’s robotaxi fleet. The IONIQ 5 robotaxi also comes with the Group’s advanced safety and reliability, and is globally scalable, uniquely positioning the robotaxi for cost-effective commercialisation.
“This robotaxi represents Motional’s vision of a driverless future becoming a reality. Through our strategic partnership with Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, we have unparalleled automotive and software expertise across our entire vehicle development process.
This deep collaboration enables us to manufacture a robotaxi that’s both highly safe and reliable, and is cost-optimised for global production. We’re focused on mass commercialisation, and the IONIQ 5 robotaxi is built for that purpose.”Motional President and CEO Karl Iagnemma.
Motional and the Group’s emphasis on passenger safety and comfort is evident throughout the vehicle. There are safety redundancies across every function, such as the navigation, steering, braking, and power, for a safe and smooth ride every time. Motional will also be able to provide Remote Vehicle Assistance (RVA) to the IONIQ 5 robotaxis should they encounter an unusual road scenario, such as road construction or flooding. In such an event, a remote Motional operator could instantly connect to the vehicle and direct it to a new path.
“Hyundai Motor has evolved its IONIQ 5, a battery-electric vehicle built on its EV-dedicated platform, into a platform for fully autonomous vehicles.
For the IONIQ 5-based robotaxi, we have applied various redundancy systems, in addition to a suite of essential technologies to ensure safety and convenience of the passengers. By successfully integrating the Group’s IONIQ 5 robotaxi with Motional’s autonomous driving technology, we are proud to announce that we have achieved another important milestone on the road to the commercialization of our robotaxi.”Woongjun Jang, Head of the Autonomous Driving Center at Hyundai Motor Group.
Commercial Robotaxi Services
Motional formed in March 2020 as an autonomous driving joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group, one of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers offering smart mobility solutions, and Aptiv, a global industrial technology leader in advanced safety, electrification, and vehicle connectivity. Motional was created to advance the development and commercialisation of the world’s highest-performing and safest autonomous vehicles.
Motional’s team has decades of expertise in driverless technology and unrivaled experience in operating commercial robotaxi services. The company has moved hundreds of thousands of consumers through its self-driving service on the Lyft network in Las Vegas, the world’s most-established public robotaxi fleet, and is the only one in its industry to partner with two major ride-hailing companies: Lyft and Via.
It’s with this invaluable experience that Motional enters the next phase of its commercial roadmap when it launches a fully driverless service, starting in 2023, on the Lyft network. The IONIQ 5 robotaxis will be deployed in multiple U.S. markets, marking a turning point for driverless technology and laying the foundation for making robotaxis a global reality.
Motional and Hyundai Motor Group will debut the IONIQ 5 robotaxis for the first time publicly at IAA Mobility in Munich, September 7-12. The Group looks forward to sharing more about its exhibit during the show.
It is fantastic to see another serious entrant in the Autonomous Vehicle space, one that’s confident enough in their technology to commit to a timeframe. This timeframe of course will involve a lot of testing between now and 2023, as well as the long path through regulatory approvals.
Clearly this approach is one based on LiDAR, which immediately raises the question around the maintenance of HD Maps, and if that maintenance task, creates a significant barrier to scaling the service nationally and internationally. While this looks a lot more like the Waymo path to autonomy than Tesla’s it is still possible for them to create a location-specific, profitable business, without solving the larger challenge of selling vehicles for customers to be driven anywhere on the planet.
With Lyft being US-only, this does limit Motional’s capacity to scale the service internationally. Also by adding the large sensor array on the roof, and the sensors around the car, it does reduce the aerodynamics of the IONIQ5 which would impact range, particularly at higher speeds.
The IONIQ5 comes with 72.6kWh of usable battery capacity, which usually translates to a 375km range. If the car averaged 40km/hr (I think this is ambitious) then it could last around 9.3hrs before requiring a charge. With support for around 230 kW DC fast charging, it’s possible to add back 300km of range in around 18 minutes. Potentially this makes a morning, morning, afternoon and evening shift possible with a short break between for recharging.
This is definitely one to watch closely over the coming months and years.