World's First Self-Driving Taxis Rolled Out In Singapore

Carla Harmon
August 30, 2016

If you spot a auto rolling down the road without a driver sometime next week, don't freak out.

A small group of residents in Singapore can now hail self-driving taxis with their smartphones, in the world's first public trial of autonomous driving technology. These taxis are being operated by an autonomous vehicle software start-up - nuTonomy.

But the ultimate goal, the company's execs say, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in the city state by 2018 - and that it will catch on internationally.

Technology company nuTonomy beats out Uber and Google by releasing the first self-driving city taxi in Singapore. nuTonomy hopes to have their vehicle released in multiple cities in the future. "This is really a moment in history that's going to change how cities are built, how we really look at our surroundings", Reuters report published in ET quoted nuTonomy executive Doug Parker as saying.

As is the case with the tests that Uber will be running in in Pittsburgh, people using the services will not be left completely to the tender mercies of the robo-taxi's autonomous controls.

nuTonomy, which spun off from MIT in 2013, equipped its EVs with six Lidar sets and two cameras to detect obstacles, lanes and traffic light changes.

The electric self-driving cabs have started working in the streets of Singapore where they are offering rides to passengers all over the Singapore business Park.

For now, nuTonomy officials told they are starting small with a fleet of six cars on the road. The trial is on an on-going basis, nuTonomy said, and follows private testing that began in April. Now there are a limited number of pick-up and drop-off locations, and nuTonomy is expecting to add more as the service becomes increasingly commercial.

"In Singapore, we have much less uncertainty", Iagnemma said.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup NuTonomy is launching a self-driving ride service in Singapore on Thursday - a move that highlights the range of global players pushing to deliver autonomous vehicles.

An Associated Press reporter using the service on Wednesday observed that the safety driver had to brake once, when a auto was obstructing the taxi's lane and another vehicle, which appeared to be parked, suddenly moved into the oncoming lane.

Mr Iagnemma said the company is confident that its software can make good decisions. The company hopes its leadership in autonomous driving will eventually lead to partnerships with automakers, tech companies, logistics companies and others.

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