For the first time ever, public Uber (UBER) riders can now hail an autonomous ride, starting today in Las Vegas.
Uber has long talked about autonomous vehicles as key to its growth, first with founder Travis Kalanick and later with current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. For its part, today's announcement is the result of Uber's partnership with autonomous vehicle company Motional, a team-up that was first announced by the two companies in October.
“Motional has proven themselves to be an industry leader, steadily and safely progressing autonomous technology towards a driverless future,” said Uber Global Head of Autonomous Mobility and Delivery Noah Zych in a statement. “We’re thrilled to take this next step together in Las Vegas, and look forward to continuing to integrate autonomous technologies into the Uber network to grow our business by providing customers with additional reliable, affordable and effortless transportation and delivery options.”
If you're in Las Vegas and want to take an autonomous ride, it's a bit a game of chance, the way all ridesharing is. Here's how it works – in the Uber app, customers can select UberX or Uber Comfort Electric for the opportunity to be matched with a robotaxi. Then, customers will have to opt in if they're matched to an autonomous vehicle and, to get into the car, there's also a button they will have to press in the app.
Next, Uber plans to launch its public robotaxi service in Los Angeles.
The partnership between Uber and Hyundai-backed Motional covers both ride-hailing and delivery and the two companies had been working together even before the October announcement. In May, Motional and Uber linked up to offer autonomous deliveries in Santa Monica, Calif.
Motional, which has more than 1,500 employees worldwide, recently laid off some of its corporate workforce. The number of employees who've been affected haven't been confirmed.
Uber has been involved with self-driving cars since 2015, though it hasn't been a straight line upward. In 2018, one of the company's driverless cars – which had an emergency backup driver in place – struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in what was believed to be the first death linked to self-driving vehicles. Additionally, in 2020, Uber sold its self-driving business unit to Amazon (AMZN) and Sequoia-backed Aurora in a deal valued at $10 billion.
Uber shares are down about 35% year-to-date. Comparatively, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down approximately 30% year-to-date.
Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.