Uber is rebuilding its robotaxi business nearly two years after selling its autonomous car development division.
The company has entered into a 10-year agreement with Motional, which is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, to introduce autonomous cars on its taxi and delivery services.
Motional's vehicles will transport passengers and deliver goods for Uber customers, including users of the Uber Eats food delivery service. Motional's fleet consists mainly of Hyundai Ioniq 5 electric vehicles.
In addition to Uber, Motional is partnering with the company's main competitor Lyft, with which it launched a robot taxi service in Las Vegas earlier this year. At the same time, Uber signed a 10-year agreement with Nuro to use unmanned delivery pods in California and Texas.
Uber noted that this is the first deal that touches both delivery and transportation services simultaneously, creating “one of the largest deployments of autonomous vehicles on a major ride-hail network, with the potential to reach millions of Uber riders.”
Details of the companies' partnership are scarce at the moment, but it is known that Uber intends to launch the service in several US cities later this year.
To participate in the beta test, according to an Uber spokesperson, potential customers of the service will not need to register on a waiting list or sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The new service could be similar to Lyft and Motional's robo-taxi business in Las Vegas, meaning customers could be able to unlock doors through the Uber app, and inside the car, they could probably start a ride or contact customer service.
For now, the operation of the new service depends on state legislation, which has different requirements for authorising the use of autonomous vehicles. In California, for example, a number of tests must be passed in order to obtain a permit, while states such as Arizona and Texas have fewer requirements.