MIT spin-out nuTonomy launched the first public trial of a self-driving taxi service in Singapore on Thursday, a few weeks before ride-hailing giant Uber launches its own service in Pittsburgh.
The public trial will take place in the one-North subzone, a 2.5 square mile business district. Customers will be chosen by nuTonomy and the ride, like Uber’s self-driving rides, will be free of charge. Right now, nuTonomy only has a few available routes.
nuTonomy is starting small, it has six Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars on the road currently, with an additional six joining the fleet before the end of the year. An engineer will be inside the vehicle to monitor performance and take control if the system fails.
“nuTonomy’s first-in-the-world public trial is a direct reflection of the level of maturity that we have achieved with our autonomous vehicle (AV) software system,” said CEO and co-founder, Karl Iagnemma.
“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.”
Dropping the flag on a great start
nuTonomy recently completed a $16 million Series A funding round, but will require lots more investment in the next two years if it wants to scale its self-driving taxi service across the entire city.
It will also compete with Delphi, the automotive parts manufacturer, which landed a similar agreement with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) to test self-driving vehicles in the city.
nuTonomy should also be worried about Uber, which is ramping up its self-driving efforts with a Volvo partnership and the acquisition of self-driving truck startup Otto. It has self-driving tests in Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, and South Korea (with Hyundai), and Singapore might be next.