Hyundai-Aptiv autonomous driving venture turns into ‘Motional’
Car manufacturer Hyundai and Aptiv, the autonomous driving offshoot of automotive supplier Delphi (ex-GM) have baptized their self-driving joint venture ‘Motional’. They promise on-road tests with Level 4 ‘fully driverless systems’ starting this year, and ‘available for robotaxi providers and fleet operators in 2022’.
The 50/50 joint venture itself was announced in March of this year. With Hyundai and Kia bringing in $1,6 billion in cash and $400 million in research and development resources, the joint venture is valued at $4 billion. It was Hyundai’s most significant overseas investment to catch up with the competition in autonomous driving.
Motion and emotion
Motional connects two words: motion and emotion, the company states in a press release. “Motion speaks to the movement of driverless vehicles enabled by the company’s technology, as well as its decades of experience moving the industry forward. ‘Emotional’ evokes the company’s people-first approach – the focus on safety and reliability that ultimately delivers peace of mind.”
Motional’s CEO and President is Karl Iagnemma, the former CEO of self-driving start-up NuTonomy that was acquired by Delphi in 2017. Iagnemma is a real pioneer in autonomous driving, as he founded NuTonomy already in 2013 together with Emilio Frazzoli as a spin-off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In an interview, Iagnemma said the company’s fleet of vehicles that are operating in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Seoul will soon be rebranded with the Motional brand.
Pioneers in self-driving
While less known in the field of autonomous driving than Google’s Waymo or Uber, the company’s engineers have a long history in self-driving cars. Through NuTonomy, becoming Delphi, which itself acquired Ottomatica, which was rebranded in Aptiv later, and now the Hyundai joint venture called ‘Motional’.
They signed for the world’s first-ever self-driving taxis available to the public in Singapore in 2016, with a fleet of modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV models. In 2015, they let an Audi Q7 perform an autonomous trip starting at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransico, to New York City, 5 630 km further.
Las Vegas taxi service
With mobility company Lyft, Aptiv has been operating a fleet of self-driving cars in Las Vegas since the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2018. Upon today, they have completed over 100 000 trips, the companies claim.
Hyundai itself isn’t a complete newcomer to the self-driving business either. With Chinese Pony.ai and ride-hailing service Via it started testing a free robotaxi service (with a safety driver) in Irvine, California last year.
In June 2019, Hyundai announced it was to invest in American start-up Aurora. That company, which was founded in January 2017, also worked with companies like Byton and – until just before the Hyundai deal – with Volkswagen. Aurora designs and develops packages of sensors, software, and data services needed to deploy autonomous vehicles.