Commercialising driverless technology

Motional is a driverless technology company based in Boston with US and Asia operations. It is making self-driving vehicles a safe, reliable, and accessible reality. The company is a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group, one of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers offering smart mobility solutions, and Aptiv, a global technology leader in advanced safety, electrification, and vehicle connectivity.


Motional announced on February 22 ( 2021) that it is operating driverless vehicles on public roads, becoming one of the world’s first companies to do so. The inaugural testing took place in Las Vegas this month and consisted of multiple driverless vehicles safely navigating intersections, unprotected turns, and interactions with other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.


The company’s driverless operation follows years of research and a two-year self-imposed safety evaluation process that took hundreds of employees more than 100,000 hours to complete. During this process, Motional proactively sought external review; TUV SUD, a world-leading independent technical service provider with extensive experience assessing driverless technology, was given access to the company’s proprietary systems, technology, and operations.  Upon completion of its assessment, TUV SUD provided Motional with a first-of-its-kind endorsement to operate with an empty driver’s seat.  The state of Nevada granted Motional permission to do so last November (2020).



Motional has firmly established itself as the ridesharing industry’s robotaxi fleet provider of choice, and is uniquely positioned to commercialize driverless technology. It is the sole driverless technology provider to have partnerships with two ridesharing leaders, including an agreement to launch the largest robotaxi deployment for a major ridesharing network.


Karl Iagnemma, President and CEO, Motional stated, “we’re one of the first companies in the world to go driverless. It’s a significant step on our path to making driverless vehicles a safe, reliable, and accessible reality, and a proud day for Motional. Not all driverless systems are created equal. Ours is the product of decades of innovation, a relentless commitment to safety and process, more than a million miles of testing, and a rigorous external review,” he added.


Motional’s process went the extra mile to demonstrate the safety of its systems, and build consumer confidence. During its 18-month review of Motional’s systems, TUV SUD’s experts interviewed employees,  reviewed detailed safety architecture designs, analyzed testing processes and results, scrutinized training procedures, and reviewed the qualifications and skill of the team. The resulting first-of-its-kind endorsement is a testament to the soundness of Motional’s technology. It supports Motional’s driverless testing in its operational design domain, with a safety steward in the passenger seat. Safety stewards monitor the route, and have the ability to stop the vehicle. They have not had to do so during Motional’s driverless operations.


With Motional’s industry-leading safety evaluation process, which the company detailed in its Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA), the company covered enough distance to circumnavigate the world multiple times. This testing was in addition to the 1.5 million miles Motional had already driven across with a diverse set of road environments, cities, and vehicle platforms.


Testing took place on public roads with a safety operator, as well as on closed courses with and without a safety operator.  Motional vehicles navigated thousands of challenging scenarios.  These involved:

  • Human-driven cars and other autonomous vehicles
  • Pedestrians, cyclists, and other road actors
  • Busy intersections and unprotected turns
  • A wide range of traffic and road conditions
  • Safely-staged edge cases on closed courses


In 2023, Motional and Lyft are expected to launch a scalable, fully-driverless, multimarket service — the largest agreement of its kind for a major ridesharing network, and a quantum leap forward for an already successful partnership. Lyft and Motional operate the world’s longest-standing commercial robotaxi service, and have provided more than 100,000 rides with zero at-fault incidents.


The team at Motional have been behind some of the industry’s largest leaps forward, including the first fully-autonomous cross-country drive in the U.S, the launch of the world’s first robotaxi pilot, and operation of the world’s most-established public robotaxi fleet.


Picture: Motional