Driverless vehicles are still a huge risk. Autonomous technology is still very new, and most cars that claim to be self-driving still need a human behind the wheel to prevent any accidents. Motional’s machines are Level 4 autonomy, which basically means the car can perform the basics of driving, including some safety-critical functions, without driver input. But it’s still not equivalent to a human driver, and the car isn’t capable of predicting and handling every scenario it can run into on the road.
There are only a handful of companies who have debuted driverless cars on public roads, with Waymo and Yandex being the two largest. Motional is looking to come in and further develop the technology while still in its incipient stages.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to see these cars on the road immediately—it just means that, when the company wants to do so, it can.
The company’s president and CEO Karl Iagnemma said that the immediate goal is to get these cars ready as quickly as possible:
The coming months will see the completion of a rigorous, self-imposed testing and assessment period, where we have studied the performance and safety of our vehicles across many thousands of miles and scenarios, on both public and private roads, in close partnership with one of the world’s most respected safety assessors. This process will include fully-driverless testing, on closed courses, this year.
These so-called “next-gen” vehicles are intended to be driverless-ready robotaxis that can hit the roads without a human driver as soon as they come off the assembly line. That said, they'll be separate from the company's Lyft program that's already on the roads.