File: An Uber logo seen in a vehicle. Getty Images via AFP/Justin Sullivan
LAS VEGAS - Uber users in Las Vegas can now ride in fully autonomous vehicles, as the ride-hailing app began its partnership with Motional, a driverless technology company.
Las Vegas visitors are now offered trips in the Hyundai IONIQ 5 robotaxi, an all-electric SUV that was developed by Motional, a joint venture between the South Korean auto giant and Aptiv, an auto tech company.
The Las Vegas pilot programme is the first step in a ten-year rollout of Motional's partnership with Uber that will next expand to Los Angeles.
In practice, Uber users in Las Vegas will be asked to opt-in for the autonomous trip when they tap into the app for a ride.
During the pilot programme, the vehicles will have operators, "to lay the groundwork" for a fully driverless service that will hopefully begin in 2023, a statement said.
In May, Uber and Motional tested fully autonomous food deliveries in Los Angeles through the Uber Eats service, which the companies said was a success.
Uber also signed a 10-year agreement in September with Nuro, another autonomous vehicle specialist, to develop driverless food deliveries in Houston, Texas, and Mountain View, California.
Motional has also partnered with Lyft, Uber's main rival in the United States, and a launch is planned for Las Vegas next year.
Uber's partnership with Motional, announced in October, was a change of strategy for company after its earlier attempts to develop its own self-driving technology failed to take off.
Uber's autonomous vehicle aspirations suffered when a test car struck and killed a pedestrian in 2018, with the company accused of setting up inadequate safety measures by investigators.
It also struggled as a result of litigation by former Google car unit Waymo, which claimed Uber had misappropriated trade secrets on autonomous technology.