Motional is the name for the new self-driving joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv. (Photo courtesy of Motional)

Hyundai and Aptiv announced Tuesday that their new autonomous driving joint venture will be called Motional and aims to introduce driverless vehicles for ride-hailing fleets by 2022.

Why it matters: Interest in robotaxis had been pushed aside lately by the autonomous vehicle industry in favor of automated trucks and delivery vehicles, partly because the need for contactless delivery seems more immediate during the pandemic.

  • While other companies are pivoting to self-driving trucks or delivery vans, Motional is sticking to its original ride-hailing mission.
  • "Our strategy is to focus on the biggest opportunity out there, which is moving people," Motional CEO Karl Iagnemma told Axios.
  • One day, the company might expand its focus to automated trucking and goods delivery, he said, but not now.

By the numbers: The company says its research shows self-driving cars are even more relevant today. Hyundai and Aptiv surveyed 1,000 consumers during the pandemic to see how their attitudes toward self-driving technology had changed.

  • Nearly one in five (19%) Americans are more interested in self-driving vehicles now than they were before the pandemic
  • 70% of Americans say that the risk of infection is a real concern impacting their transportation decisions.
  • "Safety is not just about avoiding crashing," says Iagnemma.

Catch up fast: The $4 billion, 50-50 joint venture was formed in March to commercialize self-driving vehicles.

  • Hyundai invested $1.6 billion in cash and contributed $400 million in R&D resources, while Aptiv transferred its autonomous driving technology, intellectual property and about 700 engineers to the new company.
  • Iagnemma, whose MIT spinoff, Nutonomy, was purchased in 2017 by Aptiv's predecessor company, heads the Boston-based company, which plans to boost hiring by 45% this year.
  • It is already piloting self-driving vehicles (with a backup safety driver) in Lyft's ride-hailing fleet in Las Vegas. 

What's next: Motional will begin testing fully driverless systems later this year on a new Hyundai-built vehicle platform.

  • Its driverless systems and supporting technology will be available for robotaxi providers and fleet operators starting in 2022.

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