As the world wakes up to breakthroughs in new and emerging technologies, a US Company NuTonomy, has commenced the trial of the world’s first self driving Taxi in Singapore.
The company beat Uber, which plans to offer rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, by a few weeks.
The service is starting small with six cars with a potential to grow to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say NuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads.
Eventually, the model could be adopted in cities around the world, NuTonomy says.
The company says dozens have signed up for the launch, and it plans to expand that list to thousands of people within a few months.
The cars, modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics — have a driver in front who is prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in back who watches the car’s computers.
Each car is fitted with 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.
The testing time-frame is open-ended, said NuTonomy CEO Karl Lagnemma. Eventually, riders may start paying for the service, and more pick-up and drop-off points will be added.
NuTonomy also is working on testing similar taxi services in other Asian cities as well as in the U.S. and Europe, but he wouldn’t say when.
“I don’t expect there to be a time where we say, ‘We’ve learned enough.”
“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.”