Singapore gets world’s first self-driving car service



Surpassing Uber’s plans to be the pioneer of the self-driving cars in the world, nuTonomy, a US-based autonomous car software development startup, has already done that, in Singapore this week. For the trial launch, the company sent out invites to a handful of people from the general public to use the service for free. Invited members can summon a car using smartphones from a pack of six reconfigured Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs to ferry them. Out of the 6, only a Mitsubishi i-MiEV which has been approved by regulators is operational on the roads as of now. Initially, there will be an engineer sitting behind the steering wheel to monitor the system and to take control if necessary.

For now, the taxis are only running in a 2.5- square-mile business and residential district called “one-north”, and pick-ups and drop-offs are limited to specified locations, as per a detailed report by Bloomberg.

Throughout the trial, the company will collect and evaluate data related to passenger experience, software response and hurdles faced during the ride. The data would be useful for the company for it to commercially launch the service in 2018.

Why Singapore?

nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said, “Singapore is ideal because it has good weather, great infrastructure, and drivers who tend to obey traffic rules. As a land-locked island, Singapore is looking for non-traditional ways to grow its economy, so it’s been supportive of autonomous vehicle research.” He also stated that his company is also working on testing the similar model in other Asian countries, US and Europe as well.

nuTonomy has partnered with the Singapore government on the project and hopes to have 100 taxis working commercially in the Southeast Asian city-state by 2018.

“This is really a moment in history that’s going to change how cities are built, how we really look at our surroundings,” nuTonomy executive Doug Parker told Reuters.

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Here is the startup’s promo video for the launch:

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