On Thursday, August 28, the U.S. autonomous driving startup nuTonomy began offering its taxi services through self-driving cars in the north district of the Singapore capital.
The nuTonomy program is still in its early stages, as it consists of free rides in a 2.5 square-mile portion of the city only to selected drivers who have been invited to use the service through its official app.
Furthermore, the pilot program still deploys two engineers aboard the car, one in the front seat behind the wheel as a cautionary measure and other in the back monitoring the car’s performance.
The six car fleet offers two models to its exclusive customers: Either a Renault Zoe or a Mitsubishi i-MiEv. Both vehicles have been modified to support driverless technology and gather data from users’ experience during this initial experimental phase.
However, nuTonomy hopes to roll out a 1,000-vehicle fleet by the year 2018 if its autonomous venture proves to be successful in the near future.
MIT is behind the wheel at nuTonomy
Coincidentally, the transportation startup first originated as an initiative from researchers at the Institute, with Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli steering the wheel at the company.
Frazzoli on the other hand, is also a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at the firm, holding an aero and astronautics professorate title at the iconic science center.
Their extensive knowledge in their respective areas of expertise is also a fundamental ingredient in what sets nuTonomy apart from other potentially autonomous ride-hailing services. NuTonomy’s cars are based on robotics technology, whereas traditional industry standards lean towards automation of automotive mechanics.
NuTonomy has beaten Uber to the punch in launching a driverless service
NuTonomy’s technological achievement is remarkable by itself, but it also made waves in the business world as it managed to beat the ride-hailing giant Uber in their attempt to launch a self-driving taxi service this year.
Come next week when Uber deploys its fleet of self-driving, specially modified Volvo XC90 SUVs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the San Francisco-based company won’t be able to claim they were first in pioneering neither the technology nor its use in services.
However, the 50-people startup has some work to do if they wish to compete against established digital cab-spotting services, especially since Uber recently announced a $300 million driverless development venture with Volvo and merged itself with Didi Chuxing in China.
NuTonomy has set a goal to provide an island-wide service by 2018 with potential expansion in three other undisclosed countries.
Source: The Wall Street Journal