Scaling Motional - The Road to Autonomy

Scaling Motional 

Akshay Jaising, VP of Commercialization, Motional (a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Autonomous Driving), joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss Motional’s commercialization strategy and how Motional is scaling robotaxi operations in multiple cities.

The conversation begins with Akshay discussing Motional’s commercialization strategy. 

We have taken a very partner centric approach. We want to focus on what we do best, which is building the autonomy stack and then partners with players in the ecosystem to make robotaxis a reality. – Akshay Jaising

Since 2022, Motional has had a partnership with Uber. Beginning with autonomous Uber Eats deliveries in Santa Monica, CA, the partnership has since evolved into a 10-year multi-market deal where consumers will be able to order a ride in one of Motional’s all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 robotaxis. This will be the largest deployment of autonomous vehicles on a ride-haling platform. 

Las Vegas will be the launch city followed by Los Angeles. With the expansion into Los Angeles, Motional will be operating in the 2nd largest city in the United States. Los Angeles is a diverse region that has an interest in alternative transportation modes. Anything to reduce the amount of time sitting in stop and go traffic while having to pay attention becomes a win for the millions of individuals who call Los Angeles home. 

We feel it’s a pretty critical market that has shown customer acceptance for ride-hailing. Our initial pilots and tests in Los Angeles with Uber Eats have been extremely promising and well received. It’s a really strong proving ground to demonstrate how this technology could scale and solve very critical transportation challenges. – Akshay Jaising

As Motional and the autonomous vehicle industry as a whole begins to scale and commercialize autonomous driving, attention is starting to turn from the technology to the economics of the business. Do the unit economics make sense and can the business operate profitability? These are big questions that will have to be answered. In order to answer these questions, AV companies will need long-term patient capital and this exactly what Motional has with Aptiv and Hyundai. 

In addition to Motional’s access to long-term patient capital, the company through the Aptiv/Hyundai joint-venture is currently having robotaxis built to automotive grade standards on the line. A factory-built autonomous vehicle is scalable. 

With over 130,000 autonomous vehicle rides completed to date, Motional is preparing to further scale in Las Vegas and fully commercialize the service. One of the main advantages to scaling in Las Vegas is that individuals arrive in Vegas and stay on average for 72 hours. When they are there, they gamble and enjoy all of the experiences that Vegas has to offer. They come flush with cash and open mind to trying to new experiences.

Creating the perfect opportunity to scale a profitable autonomous vehicle company as riding in an AV for the first time is an experience. Adding to the experience element, by the end of the year, Motional is planning to operate fully driverless in Las Vegas. Queue up the TikTok and Instagram posts. 

Another defining moment will be Super Bowl 58 which will be taking place in Las Vegas. With 325,000 visitors expected to attend the Vegas Super Bowl, Motional is actively preparing driverless operations which will be operating during Super Bowl Week.

We do expect to have driverless vehicles on the road in February 2024 when Super Bowl 58 will be there, and we are excited about that. – Akshay Jaising

As Motional scales operations in multiple cities including Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Motional will be taking a hybrid approach when it comes to drop-off and pick-up zones. The company will utilize zones when they are available and at times they are not, the robotaxis will integrate into the normal traffic patterns. 

Wrapping up the conversation, Akshay discusses how Motional will roll-out service in each market from an economic standpoint. 

Follow The Road to Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Tuesday, February 21, 2023