weather icon Windy

Driverless vehicle company expands footprint in Southern Nevada

After testing its driverless vehicles in the Las Vegas Valley for the past several years, Motional is doubling down on its operations in the area.

Over recent years, the autonomous vehicle technology company has provided more than 100,000 public rides via its partnership with ride-hailing giant Lyft, while also conducting important tests of driverless cars in Southern Nevada.

To expand its capabilities, Motional is tripling the size of its test track and doubling its operations center near McCarran International Airport. All of that will lead to the creation of over 100 new jobs and puts the company on the fast track to take its operations to the next level.

During its yearslong partnership with Lyft, the robotaxi service offered by Motional has featured a safety driver in place in the event something goes awry. But after not having an at-fault crash during its successful run in Las Vegas, Motional is preparing to remove the safety driver in 2023 on public rides.

The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) last month awarded Motional a $407,869 tax abatement tied to its expansion, noting the creation of new jobs with an average hourly wage of $34.92.

The larger testing course allows for four times the volume of testing and can be set up to test multiple configurations at the same time. Those include high-stress situations involving high speeds, busy urban settings, variable lighting and various rain conditions.

The expansion of the test track and operations center and the introduction of the next generation, autonomous, all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 vehicles will allow the company to take the next step and remove the safety driver.

“The Las Vegas expansion marks a significant investment in Motional’s R&D operations that will allow us to accelerate testing ahead of the commercial deployment of our fully driverless robotaxis in 2023,” Karl Iagnemma, Motional’s president and CEO said in a statement. “Las Vegas is an integral part of Motional’s testing ecosystem, which includes diverse driving environments and conditions across multiple cities and continents. This enables us to develop a highly advanced and safe driverless system that can scale globally.”

Motional has worked closely with state and local government leaders to open up the possibility of testing and using driverless technology in real time.

Abe Ghabra, Motional’s vice president of global operations, said the relationship company officials have with elected leaders has led them to the point where they are ready to launch a fully driverless robotaxi service within the next two years.

“Their support, along with the support of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, of our investment and R&D expansion will help ensure Las Vegas remains at the forefront of the driverless opportunity,” Ghabra said.

Michael Brown, executive director of GOED, had high praise for Motional for not only bringing the state to the forefront of driverless technology but also for creating jobs.

“I would like to recognize Motional’s continued investment in Nevada and its role in establishing the region as a hub for the driverless industry,” Brown said. “Throughout the pandemic, Nevada has been focused on re-skilling workers who lost their jobs. Motional will create over 100 jobs in the next year, along with making a significant investment in its Las Vegas operations and contributing valuable tax revenue. We are very pleased that Motional has made this commitment to the citizens of Nevada.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.