Self-driving cars and taxis are the buzz of the industry. Everyone seems to be doing it. But the real deal always seemed to be still years in the future.
Now, here in Singapore, you can in fact hop into a driverless taxi and go for a ride. And it’s even free. But it’s still only a trial. It does, though, take things a way bit further than what we’ve seen from the big car makers, Google or ride-hailing giant Uber.
It is not any of the big names of the car industry who we know are all pushing the technology in their research and development departments.
It’s a company called nuTonomy, a US-based start-up developer of software for self-driving cars. The company was founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers specializing in robotics and driverless technology. The firm has offices both in the US and in Singapore.
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 begun tests with passengers.
The new taxi trial currently consists of a fleet of six cars – each of them has a complex system of lasers that operate like radar to monitor the car’s surrounding. In addition there are cameras that work with the software. This service is not open to all yet, so far, only a few dozen people are part of the program.
The goal is not just to complete a little trial but to expand it to a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, according to nuTonomy.