Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, plans to start testing fully driverless cars in Nevada. The state is allowing the company to trial autonomous vehicles without having a safety driver behind the wheel.
"The coming months will see the completion of a rigorous, self-imposed testing and assessment period, where we have studied the performance and safety of our vehicles across many thousands of miles and scenarios, on both public and private roads, in close partnership with one of the world’s most respected safety assessors," Motional president and CEO Karl Iagnemma wrote in a blog post. "This process will include fully-driverless testing, on closed courses, this year."
If all goes well with the closed-course tests, Motional plans to put driverless cars on public roads in Nevada in the coming months. Although those cars won't have human drivers, they will have so-called safety stewards in passenger seats, according to VentureBeat. Safety stewards will be able to stop a car if needed.
“We’re not taking the shortest or fastest route to driverless operation on public roads. We’re taking the safe route — and sometimes reaching the figurative crosswalk takes a few extra steps,” Iagnemma wrote. “We hope that others will follow our lead.”
Nevada’s approval is an important milestone for Motional towards its goal of having a self-driving platform for autonomous taxis and carmakers ready in 2022. Motional (previously as Aptiv) and Lyft have been running a robotaxi service in Nevada over the last couple of years, and there have been more than 100,000 rides with a safety driver in place.
Several other autonomous vehicle makers have received permission to test fully driverless cars on public roads in the US. Waymo, for instance, has been doing so in Arizona.