By: Jiaqi Zhou
BotRide, a free and autonomous vehicle service, was launched in Irvine by Hyundai on Nov. 4.
“The pilot [service] introduces BotRide to several hundred Irvine residents, including college students. The goal is to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ride-sharing environment,” said Christopher Chang, head of business development, strategy and technology at Hyundai.
BotRide is a costless and driverless version of Uber where riders are able to hail the vehicle via their phones. The customer first needs to download the BotRide app, available on both IOS and the Android app store. The app will then ask for the pickup location and destination. Next, the rider will be able to see the route and the estimated arrival time on the map incorporated in the app page. When the car arrives, the customer will use the app to scan the barcode on the screen attached to the back of the front seat to verify this ride.
BotRide is equipped with autonomous driving technologies. In each vehicle, one person sits in the driver’s seat to control the brake and steering wheel, and one person in the other front seat “checks driving conditions and surroundings against what the car’s sensors and cameras are picking up,” according to an OC Register article.
As of now, the program is only operating for a 3-month time frame within the geographical boundaries of Irvine. Irvine residents are able to register themselves to the rideshare service through the BotRide website. Daniel Han, advanced product strategy manager for Hyundai Motor U.S., said that they will add new blocks of riders about once a week until they reach a yet-to-be-determined capacity.
According to the OC Register, about 50 UCI students helped test the service over the past couple of weeks. BotRide currently picks up and drops off riders at 13 spots around Irvine. The vehicles operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
“Ultimately the power of free is pretty strong. This is a free ride that people have whenever they want,” Han said. “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.”