L.A. Prepares to Welcome First Test Fleet of Robotaxis

Hyundai and Motional are working closely together to integrate hardware — sensors and the car itself — with a driverless software system. The Ioniq 5 will be fitted with 30 sensors including radar, lidar (which is like radar but uses laser beams in place of radio waves), ultrasound and cameras. “A lot of people think autonomy is just a software game, but integration with a vehicle is a complex task,” said Motional Chief Executive Karl Iagnemma.

The main reason for Motional’s L.A. expansion, though, is the need to attract scarce technical talent. “When most people think of Los Angeles, they think of Hollywood. I think of engineers,” Iagnemma said. “Some of the best machine learning engineers are in L.A.”

Of course, there are even more of them in Silicon Valley, where Motional is also setting up its first research and development office. But recruitment of the limited number of machine learning specialists there is highly competitive.