A new ridesharing service has hit the streets of Irvine. The catch? There’s no drivers. 

BotRide began testing their pilot program on Monday, November 4 through a closed beta platform to high public interest. The first on-demand ridesharing service to use self-driving cars, those eager to try it submitted applications to take part in the company’s inaugural rides. 

BotRide was created by Hyundai in collaboration with Pony.ai and Via Rideshare. Available only through smartphone booking, this 100 percent autonomous service employs a fleet of red Hyundai Kona electric SUVs. As part of their testing program, BotRide is offering free rides to the Irvine community. 

“The pilot introduces BotRide to several hundred Irvine residents, including college students. The goal is to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ridesharing environment,” said Christopher Chang, head of business development in Hyundai Motor Company’s strategy and technology division. 

Users can request via an iPhone or Android app to be picked up and dropped off within BotRide’s operating zone. This zone covers part of the city and includes the UCI Campus. Intended as an alternative public transit option, each vehicle has a capacity of two. All riders must be pre-approved through BotRide’s application process. 

Depending on destination, passengers may share their ride with other users headed in the same direction. The company will then use the data garnered from app use and ride requests to better understand consumer need. 

(Courtesy of BotRide)

“We are going to learn about ecosystems, where the vehicles travel and optimize the customer experience. BotRide is another example of Hyundai’s ongoing efforts to actively build expertise in mobility technology as well as the company’s commitment to providing more user-friendly mobility services to customers,” explains Chang. 

In order to maintain rider safety, each self-driving vehicle will have two safety drivers on hand as a precaution. Unlike Uber or Lyft, the company prefers these team members limit interaction with passengers. 

Pony.ai is a pioneer in the self-driving technology industry. Using Pony.ai’s expertise to build the autonomous system within the cars, Hyundai called upon on partner Via to create BotRide’s on-demand ridesharing technology and application. 

BotRide vehicles rely on integrated Hyundai and Pony.ai technology to navigate complex road scenarios. Equipment such as sensors and positioning software help the cars identify and react to their surroundings appropriately. 

“Through BotRide, Hyundai is leveraging cutting edge autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies to introduce a new, safe and convenient form of transportation to the public,” said Daniel Han, manager, Advanced Product Strategy, Hyundai Motor America. 

The company expects the popularity of autonomous mobility to rise in the coming years and is preparing for the possibility of a fully driverless future. 

“The BotRide pilot represents an important step in the deployment and eventual commercialization of a growing new mobility business,” explains Han. 

As the pilot testing program hits the road, BotRide hopes insights garnered will pave the way for a larger adaption of the service, as well as community acceptance of autonomous transportation. 

Says Han, “the BotRide pilot can serve as an example of how cities and companies can come together to truly enable smart cities and smart transportation systems of the future.”

Where they’re going, they don’t need drivers. 

(Courtesy of BotRide)

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