Singapore is Home to the First Self-Driving Taxi
Select residents even get to ride for free, at least for now, anyway.by Robert Moore, on
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.
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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.