Motional Previews the Self-Driving Taxi Experience, With Lyft as Its First Partner

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Lyft plans to bring Motional’s robotaxis to US cities in 2023

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The passenger experience will be influenced by ride-sharing partners including Lyft, each company providing its own user interface.

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Lyft said it has designed its experience to mimic existing user behavior, including customers’ tendency to turn to the Lyft app not only while driving but also during their rides, said Lyft Autonomous general manager Jody. Kelman said. “They don’t have to break their basic pattern when they’re riding,” Ms. Kelman said.

Other companies like Alphabet Inc. NS

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Waymo LLC, General Motors Co.

Cruise LLC and Uber Technologies Inc.

They are also involved in developing their own driverless ride-sharing services.

Driverless taxis that are viable in real-world conditions are taking longer than some officials predicted.

But in the meantime the companies pursuing robotaxis are also working hard at designing new experiences for passengers to ensure that customers feel comfortable without drivers behind the wheel.

Many Americans are wary of self-driving cars. Sixty-eight percent of respondents to a September 2020 survey by researcher JD Power said they were concerned about technology failures and errors posed by such vehicles. A survey conducted by the AAA in January found that 54% of drivers said they were afraid to ride in a self-driving car.

“Many of the issues are rooted in trust,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface at JD Power. “Can I trust that it’s going to work? Is it really going to be ready? Will it actually be better than running it myself?”

Lyft’s Ms. Kelman said, Lyft’s driverless experience will begin and end with the app, as it does with traditional rides today, giving people a sense of familiarity. “And what we found was that touches of familiarity have been instrumental in helping people,” she said.

Research by Motional strengthened the centrality of smartphones and ride-hailing apps for travelers alike.

Rob Brown, director of product at the company, said Motion originally thought passengers would want to open the trunk using the touch screen in the car, but user testing found most people lean toward their phones. So Motional made sure the trunk could be opened through ride-hailing apps as well, he said.

“We really believe that if we have an experience that’s awkward to use, it’ll eventually turn people off, and we’re trying to focus on making it as easy as possible,” Mr. Brown said.

Features beyond the app include exterior light-emitting diode, or LED, light strips with windows that will flash to let passengers know when the doors have been unlocked and three screens in the car that map the route and estimated time of arrival. provide such information. There are three buttons at the bottom of the screen: a start button to start the ride, a customer service button if passengers need to talk to someone on the way and another button to signal the vehicle to pull over.

Some observers say riders’ lack of experience with driverless vehicles will be a deterrent to robotic taxi services.

It could help people see autonomous vehicles delivering packages or food earlier, said Greg Brannan, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA.

“One of the most important things for self-driving cars to reach critical mass is that people have the opportunity to experience it in a way that they believe is safe and effective,” he said.

Ann-Marie Alcantara [email protected] . Feather

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