The future is now.

Well, at least in Singapore. Autonomous vehicle software startup ‘nuTonomy’ mentions it’s the first-ever company to launch a public trial of what they call a ‘robo-taxi service.’ Operational in a business district in Singapore, select residents are being invited by nuTonomy to use a smartphone app in order to book a ride in one of the available driverless cars, free of charge.

Performing taxi duties are modified Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Renault Zoe full-electric city hatchbacks in which there will always be an engineer from nuTonomy behind the wheel to supervise everything and take control in case something goes wrong. In addition, a researcher from the company will sit in the back to verify the vehicle’s computers and collect data. Based on the information gathered during the trial run, nuTonomy will optimize the software with an aim to launch a widely-available ‘robo-taxi service’ in Singapore as soon as 2018.

Meanwhile, there are only six cars right now in the trial run, but the company aims to double the fleet by the end of the year. All these vehicles have six sets of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems, along with dual cameras mounted on the dashboard to scan the road up ahead and detect obstacles as well as modifications in the traffic lights.

According to nuTonomy's CEO, Doug Parker, the full introduction of driverless taxis could reduce the number of vehicles in Singapore by two thirds from the current 900,000. The company is also operating self-driving cars in other areas of the world, including in Michigan, United States. In addition, the startup has also teamed up with several car manufacturers, such as Jaguar Land Rover to test the software in U.K.

Source: nuTonomy via

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