Autonomous ‘robotaxis’ launched in downtown Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS – Remember the futuristic world of the “Jetsons”? It showed us a new way of getting around. Now, with the availability of what companies call “robotaxis”, we may be getting closer to that world.

A driverless technology company and a transit software company have teamed up to launch free self-driving rides in downtown Las Vegas.

All a passenger has to do is book through an app called Via.

Passengers can book a ride through the Via app. (Via)

The car itself has driverless capabilities, but Motional, the company providing the robotaxis, has two people in the car at all times.

“At the moment we are in manual mode, but once we get it right, when James feels safe he will press a button on the steering wheel and the car will go into automatic mode,” an operator said. Motional security in the car. .

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Its hands-free functions include detecting red lights and other cars or people.

“They’re always alert. They never text. They’re never under the influence,” said Zeb Dawson, Motional’s director of fleet operations. “He sees so much further than what I, if I was driving the car, could see.”

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The “robotaxis” can detect the environment of the car. (Ashley Soriano/Fox Business)

KC Colwell, director of testing for Car and Driver Magazine, said the self-driving car trend still has a long way to go before it’s fully self-driving.

“This technology is going to be very slow before it really gets into people’s hands and is used the way everyone wants it to be used,” Colwell said.

Still, Motional plans to launch a driverless robotaxi next year.

“We see the impact of (self-driving vehicles) being integrated into our cities as part of the public transportation system, as part of mass transit,” said Chris Snyder, Via’s senior vice president of expansion. .

For now, robotaxis are only found in Las Vegas, but the two companies hope to expand to other major cities.

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Robotaxis are also offered on the Las Vegas Strip through another ride-sharing app, Lyft.

Motional recently announced a partnership with UberEats in the Los Angeles area.

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