Self-driving car developers such as Aptiv and Lyft have continued to gain real-world experiences in the technology as both companies launched a low-key commercial robo-taxi service in Las Vegas last year that has reportedly reached an early goal of providing rides to tens of thousands of paying customers.
The commercial program began May 2018, in which more than 50,000 individual trips in its fleet of 30 modified BMW 5-Series sedans were logged, according to the companies. The sedans feature software, sensors, computers and an enhanced electrical system provided by Aptiv. It can transport anyone by simply using the Lyft app in Las Vegas, though each arrives with a safety driver at the wheel.
“We believe it’s the largest open-to-the-public, self-driving autonomous vehicle service in the world,” Karl Iagnemma, Aptiv’s president of autonomous mobility, told Forbes.“You basically call a vehicle as you would a normal Lyft. If you’re lucky, one of our vehicles comes and picks you up–and chances are that trip is going to be entirely hands off the wheel.”
The program operates for 20 hours a day throughout a 20-square-mile section of Las Vegas which includes the Strip, 2,000 hotels, casinos, restaurants and more. Users pay the standard per-mile rate charged by conventional Lyft rides, according to the ride-hail company’s senior director for Autonomous Operations, Kristen Quinn.
“We design our system to handle jaywalkers, and you want to be alert to people who are crossing where there’s not a crosswalk or maybe stepping off a curb into the street,” Iagnemma said. “It’s the kind of thing we’re alert to in Vegas because sometimes people aren’t paying as close attention as they should.”
Iagnemma nor Quinn would disclose whether the companies would be expanding the Las Vegas program or even launch pilots in other cities. Iagnemma also wouldn’t say when or if they may begin operating the program without a safety driver at the wheel.