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Autonomous vehicle company halts Vegas operations, lays off 129

Autonomous vehicle company Motional is halting its Las Vegas commercial self-driving operations and laying off 129 Southern Nevada employees.

The layoffs were announced in a May 7 notice filed with the state.

Motional, a joint venture between autonomous technology company Aptiv and Hyundai Motor Group, has been operating a commercial autonomous ride hailing service via partnerships with Lyft and Uber since 2018. That service will now be placed on hold, according to the company.

“Motional’s current deployments with Lyft and Uber will be paused,” Motional said in a statement to the Las Vega Review-Journal. “We expect to resume commercial deployments once the unit economics are more favorable.”

Motional did not disclose to the Review-Journal the number of employees that were based out of its Las Vegas facility, just off Sunset Road near Harry Reid International Airport. But in a 2023 presentation to the Nevada State Legislature the company noted it employed over 350 people in Southern Nevada. That would mean this month’s announced layoffs would be about 39 percent of the local workforce.

The Las Vegas layoffs are part of a larger nationwide downsizing by Motional, which includes over 550 people, or 40 percent of its employment base, being let go by the company in recent weeks, according to a TechCrunch report.

“We’ve updated our strategic plan to focus resources on the continued development and generalization of our core driverless technology, while de-emphasizing near-term commercial deployments and ancillary activities,” Motional President and CEO Karl Iagnemma said in a May 7 blog post. “This updated strategy requires a streamlining of our teams, resulting in a reduction in staff across all functions of the business. The team members leaving Motional have my deepest appreciation for their contributions to our goals.”

Motional’s Las Vegas self-driving Lyft and Uber rides are mostly contained to the resort corridor with a safety driver in place. First operated by Aptiv, before their joint venture with Hyundai in 2020, the service has provided over 100,000 rides in Southern Nevada.

Motional was planning to roll out commercial service without an operator on board. That initiative has now has been placed on hold, according to the company.

“Motional will continue its R&D (research and development) and testing, while pausing all commercial deployments in Las Vegas,” the statement from the company read. “Motional will continue to operate in key locations. We’re not disclosing details of operational changes at this time.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X.

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