Self-driving taxis are now being trialled in Singapore, representing the biggest competition to traditional taxis since the rapid rise of Uber in recent years.
The company behind the innovative vehicles is nuTonomy, a developer of self-driving software, which has launched a trial of robo-taxis in Singapore’s one-north business district. Testing has been underway since April to trial autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and the first fully self-driving taxis finally took to the roads last week.
Initially, nuTonomy engineers will ride in each of the cabs to ensure there are no technical faults that could pose problems for other traffic or pedestrians, and to make observations on the effectiveness of the vehicles’ performance.
The self-driving vehicles are adapted Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric models, and data from each will be collected during the trial to inform future developments ahead of the launch of a planned self-driving fleet of taxis to serve Singapore from 2018 onwards.
nuTonomy has made significant progress in its efforts to build viable self-driving vehicles over the past few years, with early prototypes in 2014 involving a golf cart that was able to operate itself with the use of specialist software and cameras. Now, this equipment has been added to small electric cars, which will be used to pick up passengers in a thriving business district, meaning thousands of people will have the opportunity to test out this innovative transport option.
The company is already successfully operating self-driving vehicles in the UK and in Michigan, US in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover, so it is hoped that similar results will be seen in Singapore.
Karl Iagnemma, chief executive officer and co-founder of nuTonomy, commented: “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.”