Select residents even get to ride for free, at least for now, anyway.

The race between auto manufacturers to bring real, self-driving cars to the market is as bad as the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. that started back in the mid-1950s. With Tesla holding the trophy for the most advanced system so far, other manufacturers are closing in fast and relentlessly. But, as it turns out, a little company that you may not even have heard of has already brought a self-driving car to the masses. It’s a self-driving taxi from a company known as NuTonomy, and it calls Singapore its home turf.

To be a little more specific, when consumers open up the smartphone app and request a taxi, a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV that has been modified for autonomous driving will show up and pick them up. For now, however, the cars don’t come all by themselves. An engineer from NuTonomy will be riding in the driver’s seat to keep an eye on things and to take over driving duties should human intervention be needed. The company hasn’t announced just how many of these self-driving taxis are buzzing around Singapore at the moment, but this trial run should lead to it launching a fully autonomous fleet as early as 2018.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, their very own Jake Watts has already taken a ride in one. His impression wasn’t all bad, but he did claim that the Mitsubishi he was in lacked the polish of something like Tesla’s Autopilot. It was reported that the car did very well avoiding obstacles like pedestrians and parked cars, but it hesitated often and was very overcautious. Of course, that’s how it’s going to be for a while until the technology is perfected, but we’re well on our way to driverless cars.

Keep reading for the rest of the story

Why it Matters

I have to say that this is a pretty cool development, and I’m kind of shocked to see the i-MiEV as part of the test fleet NuTonomy has already put on the road. I wouldn’t mind learning about what they did, specifically, to make it a fully autonomous vehicle. For now, select residents in the One-North business district can summon and ride on of NuTonomy’s self-driving taxis for free, but don’t expect the “free” price tag to last forever.

Press Release

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.

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