IONIQ 5-based Robotaxi – the safe bet for getting around Las Vegas
10 minute read
Welcome to Las Vegas, the internationally famous tourist destination, known for casinos, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, nightlife and… our IONIQ 5 robotaxis! Read on to discover the latest Vegas story featuring our autonomous robotaxis.
Our new robotaxis are based on the Hyundai IONIQ 5, winner of the 2022 World Car Awards. Right now, they are being tested on the public roads in Las Vegas. This means that you can take a ride while a vehicle operator is present with the fully autonomous ride-hailing service officially set to launch in the second half of 2023. We think it is sure to win the widespread acclaim of locals and tourists alike.
Taking the first steps in Las Vegas
Every Vegas story starts somewhere. This one began in Boston in 2020 when Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv formed Motional to develop an SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle (AV) that can safely operate without a driver. With offices subsequently established in Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, Singapore, Seoul and Las Vegas, Hyundai and Motional set to work preparing the IONIQ 5-based robotaxi (hereafter called the IONIQ 5 robotaxi) for deployment in Las Vegas.
Why Vegas? Well, just consider that this desert destination had a record 42.5 million visitors in 2019 (during the pre-pandemic peak), making ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ a hot spot for transient transportation.
In Vegas, many visitors rely on taxis and ride-hailing services to get around — going from airport to hotel to various points of interest on a regular basis. With such high demand for mobility options, IONIQ 5 robotaxis are sure to get fares. And, more importantly, they can collect a jackpot of data by gaining inside knowledge about the city’s roadways and traffic patterns, entrances and exits, pick-up and drop-off points, vehicle and pedestrian types, not to mention passenger likes and dislikes.
Not only is Vegas popular for vacations, but it also hosts more than 60 of the largest conventions and trade shows every year, attracting an estimated 6.5 million people annually who need to get to events efficiently and even work in transit. Whether traveling for work or leisure, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi experience will cater to passengers’ convenience, connectivity, and comfort needs.
Hailing rides made easy
Passengers will be able to hail the IONIQ 5 robotaxi via Lyft and Uber apps, allowing them to get picked up and dropped off just like they do now with existing ride-hailing services. The interior will also feature a passenger-focused human-machine interface to allow passengers to intuitively interact with the vehicle while in transit. For example, users will be able to direct the robotaxi to make an extra stop, i.e., if they need to pick up colleagues on the way to the trade show.
What’s more, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi will have a ‘Pull Over and Wait for Me’ feature that will allow passengers to successfully find and board the vehicle at a pick-up point and get off whenever they see something special. This adds yet more convenience to the overall user experience.
Based on Hyundai’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), the IONIQ 5 robotaxi’s interior provides passengers — from honeymooning couples to convention delegates — with a spacious, comfortable place to relax, socialize, or even work during rides. The IONIQ 5’s flexible rear passenger space makes it the perfect platform for a robotaxi service as it provides plenty of leg- and headroom.
Mastering edge cases
AV technology, like that demonstrated in the IONIQ 5 robotaxis, is expected to greatly improve the safety of roads by predicting and preventing accidents. This is facilitated by over 30 sensors, including a combination of cameras, radar and LiDAR, that capture a high volume of data. This enables the onboard computing system to provide the vehicle with a vast visual vocabulary, allowing it to understand the world around it.
One of the reasons why we picked Las Vegas to roll out IONIQ 5 robotaxis is the city’s unusual variety of vehicles and pedestrian types. Accidents often most occur in rare cases, like when you see something unusual for the first time. As much as it is important to know the ordinary situations, it is even more important to collect rare "edge cases" in order for the best safety in autonomous driving. Las Vegas is the optimal city for autonomous driving honing because it is full of these edge cases
Through many millions of miles of testing, AV driving systems build a vast visual vocabulary that allows them to easily identify a wide variety of vehicle types — everything from scooters to semi-trucks. However, they must also learn how to identify more vehicle types with unconventional shapes, such as the LED billboard trucks, stretch limousines and trike motorcycles, that proliferate in Vegas.
The same can be said for the wide variety of pedestrian types in Vegas, where people wearing outlandish costumes (such as performers with feathery wings or walking on stilts) are commonly seen in public.
In the campaign video, a clown is seen walking on a sidewalk, juggling pins. He drops a pin and steps into the street to retrieve it, right in front of an IONIQ 5 robotaxi. Despite the clown’s bizarre costume and unexpected behavior, which exemplifies an edge case, the vehicle is able to recognize the risk in advance and stop for the clown to get to safety. Occurrences like this one add to the robotaxi’s visual vocabulary, allowing it to predict and solve edge cases in real time.
Furthermore, Las Vegas has thousands of hotels, including 14 of the largest resort properties in the world and 60 major casinos, making it uniquely complex in terms of entrances and exits and pick-up and drop-off points. These are hot spots for edge cases as vehicles and people with luggage, carts and strollers are constantly coming and going, creating chaos with disorderly queues by cutting in and out.
By navigating and negotiating such a complicated landscape daily, IONIQ 5 robotaxis will build a robust database, enabling convenient AV functions in support of the ride-hailing service as vehicles can be hired through Lyft and Uber apps that are familiar to many users.
What happens in Vegas won’t stay just in Vegas
IONIQ 5 robotaxi is also learning from the different and unique characteristics in each of the places where we are testing it. For example, it is mastering the old streets of Boston that are narrow and curvy; mastering left-hand driving in Singapore; and navigating the street-level light rail service and protected bicycle lanes of San Diego. As we continue to learn more, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi is becoming safer for users.
While the future of safe, sustainable transportation is being pioneered in Vegas we also have plans for other big cities. You can find out more about the expansion of the AV ride-hailing service in Los Angeles here! Soon, you will be able to hail our IONIQ 5 robotaxis in various cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles.
Autonomous driving vehicles will take part in a city's sustainability. According to a university-led study cited by Motional, one autonomous driving vehicle in a scaled fleet can replace nine personal vehicles. And, because ride-hailing vehicles are on the move most of the time, there will be more parking spaces available for other community members. Ultimately, unused spaces can be regenerated into parks and other public facilities.
By operating IONIQ 5 robotaxis in Las Vegas’ complicated and chaotic urban environment we will gain invaluable knowledge that can be successfully transferred to other cities. – KARL IAGNEMMA – PRESIDENT AND CEO, MOTIONAL
Check out the new campaign video and stay tuned for more stories about the IONIQ 5 robotaxi and our other smart mobility solutions. Follow Hyundai’s Instagram (@hyundai ) to find out more about our cars and mobility products for the next generation.