Uber’s Driverless Rides Coming This Year?

Uber is partnering with Motional to bring self-driving robotaxis

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

The battle for customer loyalty in the rideshare industry means constant innovation, which is great news for riders. And the latest announcement from Uber is no exception. As part of an ongoing effort to improve customer satisfaction and decrease wait times, they have partnered with Motional, an autonomous vehicle manufacturer.

Once the program launches, Uber riders will have the opportunity to request a ride in a robotaxi. It is the option for anyone wishing to avoid small talk or enjoy a brief glimpse into the future. The Motional robotaxis, which are Hyundai IONIQ 5s, will be available when booking either an Uber Comfort Electric or UberX.

Uber’s partnership with Motional will initially last 10 years. The driverless rides will launch later this year. But the companies have not released location details just yet. 

However, the Uber partnership will not be the first autonomous taxi for rideshare customers. At the beginning of the year, Motional teamed up with Via to offer free self-driving trips around Las Vegas. And back in August, they partnered with Lyft to release the IONIQ 5 robotaxis in the same city.

Motional came onto the scene in 2020 when Hyundai and Aptiv, an automotive tech supplier, began a joint venture. Their goal was to commercialize the technology, and they rapidly worked to catch up with competitors. They used Hyundai’s IONIQ 5, a mid-size electric crossover, and paired it with driverless software.

And while autonomous vehicles are not ubiquitous on the road just yet, they may be soon. Motional is working closely with rideshare companies, slowly expanding the integration of robotaxis. Uber has chosen to roll out the robotaxi in select cities to start. 

Before the news of the latest partnership with Uber, the two companies had already started testing the IONIQ 5 for Uber Eats deliveries in Santa Monica. But Motional is not the only autonomous vehicle manufacturer Uber hopes to partner with. The company has its eye on multiple third-party companies to expand the reach of driverless vehicles.

One of those companies is Aurora, and according to Fast Company, Uber currently holds a 26% ownership stake in the manufacturer. Its ties to Aurora reach back to 2020. At the time, the rideshare company decided to sell its autonomous vehicle division to them.

Uber has not given any indication of which other third-party companies they plan to work with. However, they are quite vocal about the why behind the autonomous vehicle moves. And ultimately, it all comes down to customer service.

The popularity of rideshares is rapidly growing at such a high rate that Uber is having a hard time keeping up with a steady supply of drivers. That means customers often find themselves with long wait times. Additionally, the fares for Uber rides are not cheap.

Uber hopes that by introducing the robotaxis, they will be able to increase vehicle availability. This move will ultimately result in shorter wait times for riders. Plus, the even better news for riders is that without a driver to pay, the fares should start to decrease.