Friday 30th September 2016
Singapore Blazes Self-Driving Taxi Trail
- Autonomous vehicle software start-up nuTonomy has announced that it is the first in the world to offer autonomous taxi rides. It beat Uber, which has started offering rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh
- Self-driving taxis can now be booked through an app by Grab, the biggest ride-hailing company in south-east Asia.
- NuTonomy and Grab won’t be the only providers of driverless, on-demand trips in Singapore. Last month, Delphi announced that it will provide a fleet of self-driving cars to the city-state.
Autonomous vehicle software start-up nuTonomy has made rides on its self-driving taxis available to the general public in Singapore for free, expanding a first-in-the world run that was initially invitation-only.
The Singapore trial was limited to a 2.5 square mile (6.5 square kilometre) business and residential district called One North.
NuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said that the test area has since been doubled by the government. The approved route does not include any highways.
NuTonomy, a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), announced that the public can now book self-driving taxis through an app by Grab, the biggest ride-hailing company in south-east Asia. The two companies announced a year-long partnership.
To book a ride passengers will have to select the ‘robo-car’ option on Grab’s app. Passengers have to be older than 18 years old, book in advance and sign a liability waiver. Rides will be free for at least two months.
“We will be combining nuTonomy’s self-driving car software with Grab’s app, with their proven fleet routing technology and their mapping capabilities,” said Iagnemma.
The cars – modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics – have a safety driver in front who is prepared to take the wheel and a researcher in the back, who watches the car’s computers.
If a pick-up or drop-off point is out of approved testing perimeters the driver will take over for the rest of the journey, Iagnemma said. “It’s an evolution to identify where are the easy parts, where are the trickier parts where we need to spend more time,” he said.
Iagnemma would not say how many rides nuTonomy provided in the trial period, but said thousands signed up for the invited trial within the first 48 hours. The company said there have been no problems and plans to make its Singapore taxi fleet fully self-driving by 2018. – The Gleaner