LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — How willing would you be to ride in a taxi without a driver?
Plans were just announced to launch a new fully driverless ride hail service, with Las Vegas being the first city of operation.
It's the product of a partnership between rideshare company Lyft and Motional, a company that's trying to make self-driving technology more mainstream. They say their robotaxis will start transporting public passengers in Las Vegas next year, with a full-fledged commercial launch to follow in 2023.
Las Vegas will be the first of several cities where Lyft will offer an option to pick you up and take you where you need to go in a fully autonomous taxi.
The driverless technology was developed by Motional, and it's being tested on a track in Las Vegas. Motional says it will be deploying all-electric Hyundai Ioniq-5's on southern Nevada streets when the program starts next year.
The same company has already been offering a self-driving service in Las Vegas for the past three years under the name Aptiv. The big difference is that those vehicles still had a human being behind the wheel in case of emergency, and these next-generation robotaxis will not.
Todd Johnson, a longtime Lyft driver in Las Vegas, says he's not too worried about the prospect of this technology taking his job.
"Not at all, because they've had driverless cars here already and it didn't affect us a bit," Johnson said. "Most people are a little scared about riding in a driverless car because they're not used to it yet. I know it's the way of the future and I think, down the road, things will be great, but right now I'm not the least bit worried."
13 Action News reached out to Lyft to find out whether this plan will affect the number of human drivers they employ. A spokesperson pointed us to an op-ed written by Lyft's co-founder, John Zimmer, in 2016 about the company's future.
It reads: "Some people assume that the introduction of autonomous vehicles will mean human drivers are no longer needed. We believe that in the first five or more years following the introduction of autonomous vehicles, the need for human drivers will actually increase, not decrease. How is that possible? Rides in autonomous vehicles will be less expensive than any options today and will lead to more people using Lyft for more and more of their transportation needs. As people rely on Lyft for more of their transportation, they are more likely to live car-free. And as more people trade their keys for Lyft, the overall market will grow dramatically. When autonomous cars can only solve a portion of those trips, more Lyft drivers will be needed to provide service to the growing market of former car owners."
13 Action News also reached out to Motional to find out how many of these robotaxis they plan to operate in Las Vegas, but we're still waiting to hear back.