A new rideshare service is entering the market, and this one drives itself.
The car manufacturer, in collaboration with Pony.ai and Via, announced that a fleet of autonomous Hyundai KONA Electric SUVs will start hitting the road on Nov. 4. The ridesharing service will be free to residents of Irvine, Calif., as a part of a pilot phase that will last until Jan. 31, 2020.
The goal is to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ride-sharing environment, Christopher Chang, head of business development, strategy and technology at Hyundai Motor Company, said in a recent press release.
"We are going to learn about ecosystems, where the vehicles travel and optimize the customer experience," Chang said. "BotRide is another example of Hyundai's ongoing efforts to actively build expertise in mobility technology as well as the company's commitment to providing more user-friendly mobility services to customers."
Via, one of Hyundai’s collaborators on the project, is a transportation network company that is “technology enables multiple passengers headed in the same direction to seamlessly share their ride, rerouting vehicles in real-time in response to demand and traffic” while “operating in cities of all sizes, from major metropolitan centers to suburban and rural environments,” according to the company’s website.
Self-driving car startup Pony.ai’s technologies will allow the BotRide vehicles to safely traverse a variety of complex driving and road scenarios thanks to their latest sensor hardware, which will help to locate the self-driving car’s position in relation to surrounding vehicles as well as pedestrian traffic in densely populated areas. Pony.ai’s technology will also help to monitor the car’s surroundings and even predict the behaviors of other nearby drivers.
Customers will use the BotRide app, which is compatible for iOS and Android platforms, to hail one of the self-driving vehicles and thanks to Via’s advanced algorithms, multiple riders can share the same car. The app will direct passengers to nearby pick-up and drop-off spots, which will make for quicker riders without detours and inconvenient fixed routes.
"Through BotRide, Hyundai is leveraging cutting-edge autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies to introduce a new, safe, and convenient form of transportation to the public," Daniel Han, manager of Advanced Product Strategy at Hyundai, said.
"The BotRide pilot represents an important step in the deployment and eventual commercialization of a growing new mobility business. In addition to the technology partners powering BotRide, the broader city and community ecosystem have also played an important role in making BotRide possible. The BotRide pilot can serve as an example of how cities and companies can come together to truly enable smart cities and smart transportation systems of the future."
Hyundai is just one of many companies throwing their hat into the self-driving car market, with Apple, Google and others testing their own versions of autonomous cars of the future.
The Apple self-driving car has been rumored for quite some time now. The tech giant had initially indicated that it was interested in manufacturing self-driving cars of their own, but have since revealed its interest lies more in the self-driving vehicle technology rather than the cars themselves. TechRadar reports that they spotted an Apple Car back in May 2018 on a public road before it pulled off into the parking lot of the Apple office headquarters in Sunnyvale, Ca. Apple has recently patented two self-driving car-related technologies, one for virtual reality software and the other for “intent signals.”
Google’s self-driving car division, Waymo, launched back in late 2016, but the TechRadar reports its self-driving technology has been in development since at least 2009. Google’s self-driving vehicle has proven to be one of the most reliable driverless car currently on the market, with their self-driving cars disengaging a mere 0.18 times for every one thousand miles (disengagement is when a human has to take over driving responsibilities for a self-driving car.) Google currently has a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to use Waymo’s artificial intelligence.
The granddaddy of all ridesharing services, Uber's driverless cars have driven over one million miles on public roads. However, their AI technology still has many a kink to work out, as Uber’s self-driving cars reportedly can only go 13 miles on average before a human must take over. A deadly accident in Arizona last year caused the governor of that state to suspend Uber’s test drive operations there, and the rideshare giant shut down tests completely in the aftermath. However, they do plan on resuming tests of their driverless cars in San Francisco, Toronto and Pittsburgh sometime in the near future.
Being the cutting edge company that they are, the electric car manufacturer added an autopilot feature for its Tesla Model X, Model X and Model 3 cars. However, Tesla’s autonomous vehicles are not completely driverless by nature, and are used more for highway driving, where Tesla's AI can preemptively perform lane shifts before reaching a desired exit or to circumvent traffic jams. But once you leave the highway, a warning will appear to inform you to remove the autopilot feature.