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The world's first self-driving taxis

nuTonomy is a leading developer of state-of-the-art software for self-driving vehicles, developed by two MIT researchers, and first launched in Singapore in 2016.

Self-driving cars have been much talked about, but for most of us it still seemed like science fiction. Distracted by the sleek electric vision of Tesla, self-driving seemed like a step beyond in terms of industry change, but has now suddenly become a reality.

The world’s first self-driving taxis were launched in Singapore in August 2016 … not by Google, Tesla or Uber … but by nuTonomy. The US-based start-up is a developer of software for self-driving cars, founded in 2013 by two world-renowned experts in robotics and intelligent vehicle technology, Drs. Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli of MIT, and based in Cambridge MA.  Earlier this year, nuTonomy was the first company to get permission from the Singapore government to test self-driving cars, in a small area of the town. It’s now progressed to taking passengers.

Whilst many people looked to the conventional car manufacturer brands to shape the future, it was always more likely that those with adjacent capabilities (like software, or charging, or marketing – Google, Better Place, or Uber) would “change the game” – redefine customer aspirations, business models, and the way the industry works.

nuTonomy is not a car manufacturer, so don’t expect sic-fi-looking cars to start navigating that Orchard Road traffic today. Instead a range of Renault and Mitsubishi electric vehicles have been equipped with the company’s complex system of cameras and lasers that operate like a radar to monitor the car’s surrounding. Which is certainly a step up from autonomy’s initial trial vehicles, which were electric golf carts.

The taxis will run in a limited 4 sq km area in the west of Singapore, with designated pick-up and drop-off spots so you can’t yet get on or off wherever you prefer.

The choice Singapore as a start-up location is important. It is already a taxi heaven. Owning your own car is mind-bogglingly expensive and many people take taxis on a regular basis. Cab rides are cheap and there’s a very high demand. Add the rather disciplined and organised approach to traffic. When Singaporeans talks about a traffic jam, all they mean are a few cars more than usual at a traffic light!

nuTonomy’s goal is to expand it to a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018.

Of course nuTonomy is not only company with a self-driving vision. Uber seeks to launch its own service on the streets of Pittsburgh USA over the next few weeks. Google was one of the first to openly declare its vision, and seeks to have been testing driverless cars at its GoogleX Moonshot Factory for years now. Tesla too, has a bold vision. Not just of driverless cars, but driverless car sharing was a corner stone of Elon Musk’s new strategy launched last month.

Press release, 25 August 2016

nuTonomy, the leading developer of state-of-the art software for self-driving cars, today launched the first-ever public trial of a robo-taxi service. The trial, which will continue on an on-going basis, is being held within Singapore’s one-north business district, where nuTonomy has been conducting daily autonomous vehicle (AV) testing since April.

Beginning today, select Singapore residents will be invited to use nuTonomy’s ride-hailing smartphone app to book a no-cost ride in a nuTonomy self-driving car that employs the company’s sophisticated software, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components. The rides will be provided in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle that nuTonomy has specially configured for autonomous driving. An engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

Throughout the trial, nuTonomy will collect and evaluate valuable data related to software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience. This data will enable nuTonomy to refine its software in preparation for the launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018.

Earlier this month, nuTonomy was selected by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) as an R&D partner, to support the development of a commercial AV service in Singapore. This trial represents the first, rapid result of this partnership. nuTonomy is the first, and to date only, private enterprise approved by the Singapore government to test AVs on public roads.

CEO and co-founder of nuTonomy, Karl Iagnemma, said, “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

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