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Self-Driving Hyundai Kona Electric Will Support Free Ride-Hailing Service In California

In Irvine, California, residents will be able to hail a self-driving Hyundai Kona EV, named BotRide, for free public transportation.

rvineWaymo, a self-driving technology development company, will be getting some serious competition from Hyundai. The South Korean automaker has partnered with Via, a mobility company focused on providing public transportation, and China's Pony.ai, to introduce the self-driving Kona Electric into the US market.

On Friday, Hyundai announced its first extensive commitment to self-driving cars and ride-hailing services. In Irvine, California, local residents will be able to hail a self-driving Hyundai Kona EV, named BotRide, for free public transportation, the automaker said.

According to Hyundai, BotRide will enable the company to understand consumer behavior as relates to self-driving cars, which have been met with some resistance. Hyundai will provide the Kona EV, while Pony.ai has worked with the automaker to design the autonomous technology that powers the vehicle. Meanwhile, Via has developed the ride-sharing application that Irvine residents can use to request BotRide on demand.

Although the pilot program isn't yet available to the public at large, Hyudai said BotRide is being offered to "several hundred" locals, including college students in the pilot area, which includes "several residential, commercial, and institutional points of interest."

Once they have been picked up, Hyundai wants to see how riders interact with the onboard systems to enable the company to fine-tune systems to potentially mass-market self-driving cars in the future. The automaker said BotRide is currently prioritizing these passenger interactions.

The introduction of Hyundai's first self-driving cars on public roads comes after the announcement that parent company, Hyundai Motor Group, has partnered with Aptiv to develop a new joint-venture company, which hopes to design a self-driving car platform and refine Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous technologies. Both of these levels of autonomy don't involve any human participation.

RELATED: Hyundai's Kona Has Some Serious Driving Range

Hyundai said there will still be two drivers inside the BotRide fleet of vehicles to assess the autonomous systems and the technology rates at Level 4 on the SAE scale of autonomy. The system uses the latest sensor hardware from Pony.ai to manage complicated road situations, evaluate pedestrian traffic and predict behavior precisely, according to the announcement.

The first BotRide vehicles will begin operating in Irvine, California on November 4.

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