SINGAPORE: A joint venture by Korean automaker Hyundai and self-driving technology firm Aptiv is continuing to hire despite the COVID-19 downturn, and aims to add at least 30 more people to its headcount by the end of the year.
On Tuesday (Aug 11), Hyundai and Aptiv announced that their US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion) joint venture - first announced in September last year and finalised in March - would be named Motional.
Speaking to the media via video-conferencing on Wednesday, Motional's chief executive officer Karl Iagnemma said the firm - which has offices in Singapore and Seoul in addition to four in the United States - intends to expand its global headcount by 45 per cent this year to more than 1,000.
In Singapore, it has hired more than 25 full-time employees since the joint venture was formed in March, and aims to add more than 30 jobs by the end of the year.
“I expect we may exceed that,” said Mr Iagnemma, noting the company has about 200 staff members in Singapore currently.
Networking site LinkedIn shows the firm - referred to as “Hyundai-Aptiv Autonomous Driving Joint Venture” - is currently hiring for 13 positions, including research scientists and system engineers, among others.
Singapore has been a "fantastic place" to recruit from a research and development perspective, said Mr Iagnemma, pointing also to the strong government support for the development of driverless technology.
“COVID is impacting every country around the world, I understand it's had an impact on Singapore, it's a difficult time for the country. My hope is that our ability and willingness to hire in the country is a way that we can contribute to Singapore's rebound (and) recovery,” he added.
Aptiv was formed in 2017 after automotive supplier Delphi purchased self-driving technology start-up nuTonomy, which had been testing its autonomous cars in Singapore’s one-north area since 2016 and launched what was believed to be the world’s first robo-taxi trial with ride-hailing firm Grab in Singapore's one-north area that year.
READ: Singapore remains 'critical piece' for developing self-driving tech: nuTonomy
Since 2018, Aptiv has “safely provided” more than 100,000 commercial robo-taxi rides in Las Vegas as part of a partnership with American ride-hailing operator Lyft, said Mr Iagnemma.
When asked if Motional would be launching a commercial service in Singapore, Mr Iagnemma said that the country met several criteria such as “significant demand for mobility services” and strong governmental support.
However the firm is not making “any firm commitment” about which cities it will be launching commercial services in or when it will do so, he said.
Motional is now focusing on developing Level 4 autonomous driving, he added, referring to the movement of self-driving vehicles within a defined environment.
“So we're moving forward, you know, we'll be testing fully driverless systems by the end of this year,” he said.
“And then our driverless systems and supporting technology will be available to some of our key partners for their own testing in 2022. So those are key dates for our business.”
Last year, the Land Transport Authority announced that the entire western region of Singapore - comprising more than 1,000km of public roads - would be opened up to the testing of self-driving vehicles. This had previously been restricted to areas such as the one-north business district and Sentosa island.