nuTonomy launched a self-driving taxi service today in Singapore, offering free rides to the public on a limited basis. nuTonomy claims this is the world’s first self-driving taxi service that offers rides to people, beating out Uber, Delphi, GM and Lyft.
Software startup nuTonomy is using six Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi iMieV self-driving cars, which people can summon from their phone, to shuttle passengers around the city’s 2.5-square-mile “one-north” business and residential district. nuTonomy said it plans to add more self-driving taxis to the fleet in the next two years.
nuTonomy will have two engineers in each self-driving taxi - one in the driver’s seat and another in the back monitoring real-time data - in case a human driver needs to take the wheel.
“When you’re able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities,” said NuTonomy CEO Doug Parker told AP. “You can create smaller roads, you can create much smaller car parks – I think it will change how people interact with the city going forward.”
Not only does nuTonomy have stiff competition around the world when it comes to self-driving taxis, Delphi recently partnered with the Singapore Land Transport Authority to launch a similar service in 2017. Delphi will be using six self-driving Audi SQ5s that will drive passengers along three fixed routes that cover about 5 miles.
Delphi said there will be a human in the car ready to take over the car in case of an emergency. However, the plan is to remove that human and eventually the steering wheel, hopefully by 2019 or 2020.
And Uber, of course, is looking to launch a self-driving taxi service in downtown Pittsburgh this month. Uber said 100 modified Volvo XC90s will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat at the start. The self-driving Volvo’s feature dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers.
nuTonomy, currently headquartered in Cambridge, MA, was founded in the US in 2013 by Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It also has a base in Singapore.