The world’s first driverless taxi, developed by nuTonomy, has hit the roads of Singapore! Yes, nuTonomy has invited a group of people to try out the taxi with the help of its app. nuTonomy is offering a free ride in its “robo-taxi”. The full-scale launch of this self-driving taxi is expected to be some time in 2018. The cars that are being used are Mitsubishi i-MiEv electric vehicle and Renault Zoe. For the trial runs, an engineer is seated behind the steering wheel to keep a tab on the system, monitor it, and take control if required.
The service has been started small with only six cars as of now. nuTonomy plans to grow this to a dozen by the end of this year. The move, says nuTonomy, will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. nuTonomy says, eventually this model can be adopted in other cities around the world. nuTonomy executive Doug Parker told Reuters that the trial is on an on-going basis, and follows private testing that began in April. nuTonomy has tied up with the Singapore government for this project, and the company hopes to have around 100 taxis in the Southeast Asian citystate by 2018.
According to reports, the taxis are currently running in a 2.5-square-mile business and residential district called “one-north”. Each car is said to be equipped with six sets of Lidar. Lidar is a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar — including one that constantly spins on the roof. There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights.
NuTonomy is a 50-person company and has offices in Singapore and Massachusetts. It was founded in 2013 by Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli, who are MIT researchers. They were studying robotics and developing autonomous vehicles for the Defense Department. nuTonomy’s trials come at a time when Google is aggressively testing self-driving cars and Apple has also indicated its wish to enter into the segment.