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World’s first self-driving taxi is operational in Singapore, and it’s not Uber

Published Aug 25th, 2016 7:15AM EDT
Self-driving Taxi Service nuTonomy
Image: YouTube

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Uber has recently announced plans to offer clients free rides in self-driving vehicles, as it tests its driverless ride-sharing service in Pittsburgh. However, Uber isn’t the only ride-hailing company that’s pursuing such car technology, as the world’s first driverless taxi trail is now operational in Singapore.

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nuTonomy announced in a press release that the starting August 25th, users in Singapore would be invited to try the service. The trial will be available in the one-north business district, where the company has been conducting self-driving car tests since April.

The autonomous taxi fleet includes Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles that were modified to read and interpret data picked up by special sensors. The cars will still have a driver behind the wheel, ready to take over control if needed. The engineer will also observe system performance, as the car drives itself around the city.

The service is going to be available for free to selected testers, just as Uber’s autonomous rides.

nuTonomy is also operating self-driving cars in Michigan and the UK, with Jaguar Land Rover being included in the trials. However, the autonomous taxi service is only available in Singapore at this time.

The company hopes that it’ll be able to launch a widely available commercial robo-taxi service in the country in 2018, after these early trials.

A video showing it in action and the full press release follow below.

nuTonomy Launches World’s First Public Trial of Self-Driving Car Service and Ride-Hailing App

Public rides in nuTonomy’s “robo-taxi” service begin today in Singapore

Cambridge, MA and Singapore, August 25, 2016 — nuTonomy, the leading developer of state-of-the art software for self-driving cars, today launched the first-ever public trial of a robo-taxi service. The trial, which will continue on an on-going basis, is being held within Singapore’s one-north business district, where nuTonomy has been conducting daily autonomous vehicle (AV) testing since April.

Beginning today, select Singapore residents will be invited to use nuTonomy’s ride-hailing smartphone app to book a no-cost ride in a nuTonomy self-driving car that employs the company’s sophisticated software, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components. The rides will be provided in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle that nuTonomy has specially configured for autonomous driving. An engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

Throughout the trial, nuTonomy will collect and evaluate valuable data related to software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience. This data will enable nuTonomy to refine its software in preparation for the launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018.

Earlier this month, nuTonomy was selected by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) as an R&D partner, to support the development of a commercial AV service in Singapore. This trial represents the first, rapid result of this partnership. nuTonomy is the first, and to date only, private enterprise approved by the Singapore government to test AVs on public roads.

CEO and co-founder of nuTonomy, Karl Iagnemma, said, “nuTonomy’s first-in-the-world public trial is a direct reflection of the level of maturity that we have achieved with our AV software system. The trial represents an extraordinary opportunity to collect feedback from riders in a real-world setting, and this feedback will give nuTonomy a unique advantage as we work toward deployment of a self-driving vehicle fleet in 2018.”

In May of this year, nuTonomy completed a $16M Series A funding led by Highland Capital Partners that included participation from Fontinalis Partners, Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and EDBI, the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board.

In addition to Singapore, nuTonomy is operating self-driving cars in Michigan and the United Kingdom, where it tests software in partnership with major automotive manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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