World’s first driverless taxis take to the roads of Singapore

A company called nuTonomy has launched the world’s first self-driving taxis in Singapore, and they’re already on the roads picking up passengers!

nuTonomy’s vehicles have been undergoing trials for almost a year, and last week launched in a business and residential district; albeit with limited pick-up and drop-off locations.

At present members of the public require an invitation from nuTonomy to use the service, and the company have already been inundated with requests to try it out. nuTonomy have confirmed that dozens have already signed up an completed rides successfully, and that they hope to expand this to thousands within the next few months. This demand should come as no surprise – nuTonomy are believed to be the first company in the world to offer rides to the public.

There are currently six cars in action on the streets of Singapore, with this fleet due to be double by the year’s end. The company’s aim is to have a fully driverless taxi fleet able to service the country by the end of 2018. With congestion a real issue in Singapore, its hoped that this will help cut private car usage.

At the moment, the cars all have a driver in the front who can take manual control if required, and a researcher in the back to watch the computers and monitor their performance. Each vehicle has a detection system in place as well as dash-cams to scan for obstacles and traffic light changes.

The CEO of nuTonomy, Karl Iagnemma, said of the trial: “I don’t expect there to be a time where we say, ‘We’ve learned enough'”, indicating that the testing period may be open-ended. Their Chief Operating Officer said that he hopes the fleet will reduce Singapore’s car levels from 900,000 down to 300,000 – “When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities. You can create smaller roads, you can create much smaller car parks. I think it will change how people interact with the city going forward.”

So, why Singapore? “We face constraints in land and manpower. We want to take advantage of self-driving technology to overcome such constraints, and in particular to introduce new mobility concepts which could bring about transformational improvements to public transport in Singapore,” said Pang Kin Keong, Singapore’s Permanent Secretary for Transport and the chairman of its committee on autonomous driving.

An Associated Press journalist taking a ride in one of the nuTonomy vehicles mentioned that the safety driver in their ride did have to have step onto the brakes once, when a car obstructed the lane and another which appeared to be parked suddenly started moving. However, Olivia Seow, a 25-year-old tech worker in the area and selected nuTonomy rider, said that despite at first being nervous, she soon eased into the concept and trusted the vehicle; and there was no driver intervention on her ride.

So, what do you think – would you give an automated taxi a try? And would you do so without a driver in the front to manually take over? Let us know at @Liftshare on Twitter now!

Photo credit: 

Author Lex Barber


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