The world’s first public self-driving taxi is already running Singapore’s streets, and a selected group of clients is enjoying the innovative service thanks to an app launched by the manufacturer.

A startup company named nuTonomy announced the first trials for its self-driving taxis on Thursday.  A selected group of citizens is already enjoying the service and evaluating the taxis performance. In a nuTonomy’s press release, the company informed their ‘robo-taxis’ were running Singapore’s one-north business district, as selected clients were invited to download an app for the free service to give manufacturers feedback.

A car being tested using Nutonomy's self-driving car software. Image Credit: Investor Herald
A car being tested using nuTonomy’s self-driving car software. Image Credit: Investor Herald

“This is really a moment in history that’s going to change how cities are built, how we really look at our surroundings,” said nuTonomy executive, Doug Parker to Reuters.

American startup nuTonomy has one goal: No driver needed

Driverless cars still feel like something taken out from the distant future despite the advance of technology. However, the autonomous vehicle’s initiative is being approached by some of the biggest companies in the world including Uber, Google, Mercedes, Tesla, and Volvo.

Although many businesses are still developing their self-driving vehicles nuTonomy, a start-up company based in the United States, already has their cars running on Singapore’s streets.

The company was founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers who focused on driverless technology and robotics. The founders of the company experienced a quick progress since it landed the permission of Singapore’s government to test their vehicles on the city’s streets from the start.

Karl lagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli are the two heads of the 50-person company that was able to test driverless cars successfully. The founders chose Singapore because of its massive demand for taxi service and affluent traffic. nuTonomy’s robo-taxis are providing free transportation to their clients in Singapore, but the self-driving cabs still have a person in the driver’s seat to monitor the car’s behavior and to react in case something goes wrong.

An auto render of nuTonomy's prototype for the self-driving taxi deployed in the streets of Singapore more recently. Image Credit: ITU150
An auto render of nuTonomy’s prototype for the self-driving taxi deployed on the streets of Singapore more recently. Image Credit: ITU150

As of now, the company has a fleet of six cars that includes a Renault Zoe and a Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle that have been adapted with sophisticated software, high-performance sensing and computing components.

During the trial phase nuTonomy is evaluating the car’s performance and efficiency for clients as well as the booking process. With the help of the passengers and analysts, the company hopes to upgrade the service before its launch.

“nuTonomy’s first in the world public trial is a reflection of the level of maturity that we have achieved with our AV software system, the test represents the opportunity to collect feedback to work on a deployment of the 2018 fleet,” said CEO and co-founder Karl Lagnemma in a press release.

The taxi trials are limited to certain locations and specified pick-up and drop-up points and run for a 2-5 square mile in the small residential district. The company hopes to expand the areas as the service is upgraded.

According to a reporter from the Associated Press who took a ride on the robo-taxi, the driver had to step on the emergency breaks in an occasion when another vehicle was obstructing the self-driving car and when a parked vehicle began moving. The company is also operating a self-driving car system in the U.K. and Michigan with car manufacturers such as Land Rover and Jaguar.

Source: The Guardian