Weekly Brief: Aptiv and Lyft launch fleet of robotaxis in Las Vegas

Members of the general public can now order fully autonomous taxis in Sin City. Andrew Tolve reports.

Want to hail a ride in Vegas? Now you can do so in a fully self-driving car, courtesy of an expanded partnership between self-driving supplier Aptiv and ride-hailing giant Lyft. Last Thursday Aptiv rolled out a fleet of 30 autonomous BMW 5 Series saloon on the Lyft network. The companies have been piloting robotaxis in Vegas since the Consumer Electronics Show in January but this new fleet will service all members of the general public and cover all of Las Vegas. Aptiv plans to use the service as a way to raise money for its self-driving car programme and to gain valuable knowledge and data from user feedback.

The timing could be better. We’re only six weeks removed from a self-driving Uber striking and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Just last week a self-driving Waymo in Arizona was involved in an accident as well (see below). Aptiv says that an expert safety driver will be behind the wheel at all times, who can take over in case of emergency, although there was an expert safety driver behind the wheel in that Uber crash. Aptiv also notes that only those Lyft users who opt into the programmewill receive rides in robotaxis and that for now the vehicles will only shuttle to and from high-demand destinations.

In other news, a Waymo minivan operating in autonomous mode was involved in a gnarly accident in Chandler, Arizona but was exculpated of any wrongdoing by the police. Subsequent videos released by Waymo showed a Honda saloon,travelling in the opposite direction,swerve to avoid a collision and cross into oncoming traffic, at which point it collided with the Waymo vehicle whose safety driver was at attention but didn’t have time to react. She sustained minor injuries.

Toyota is constructing a closed-course test facility to develop automated vehicle technology at Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake. When it becomes operational this October, the new site will be used exclusively by the Toyota Research Instituteto safely replicate demanding “edge case” driving scenarios, too dangerous to perform on public roads. The new facility will include congested urban environments, slick surfaces and a four-lane divided highway with high-speed entrance and exit ramps.

Ford is embarking on a new mobility joint venture with Chinese automaker Zotye. The two will provide full service ride-hailing solutions to fleet operators and drivers in China’s fast-growing ride-hailing market of Zhejiang. Service offerings provided by the JV will include all-electric vehicle leasing, data-driven fleet management solutions, in-vehicle digital services, connectivity and vehicle customisation. Both companies are investing $10M (£7.37M).

Continental is testing its autonomous technology on Germany’s famed autobahn. Planned routes will take self-driving cars through real traffic conditions and on stretches of the highway where speed limits don’t exist but also will veer off the autobahn onto highways and routes through the city for subsequent test intervals. Continental plans to use the data it collects to further enhance sensors, vehicle computers, operating systems, and software for automated driving, particularly in Japan, China, the USand Germany.

Finally, SEAT is testing a new electric vehicle car-sharing concept among employees of its SEAT Metropolis:Lab Barcelona and the Pier 01 Barcelona Tech City. The employees have anytime access to a fleet of electric concept cars called the eMii, which they can reserve with an app and unlock with a digital key. SEAT’s digital lab is studying the data generated by the pilot to come up with innovative mobility solutions.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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