World’s First Self-Driving Taxis Hit the Road in Singapore
Singapore became the first country in the world to launch a self-driving taxi service on Thursday, beating ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. by mere days to public road tests of a technology that could revolutionize the transport industry.
Big names like Volvo, Ford, Uber and even Google should start worrying. A startup in Singapore has started rolling out self-driving taxis in the country which has begun picking up passengers.
Who’s behind it?
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.
nuTonomy is offering the first of its kind service starting with six modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi iMiEV electric cars. As a safety precaution, there will be a driver in each car on the front if there is need to take over the controls.
There will also be researcher who will sit in the back to keep a check on the automatic driving system. This could mean less space for the passengers, but for the ones who don’t mind can ride for free.
How does self driving taxis work?
Given that nuTonomy is not a car manufacturer, these are not flashy futuristic vehicles designed for a driverless future. Rather, they are small Renault and Mitsubishi electric vehicles that have been equipped with the company’s software and cameras.
The micro cars are still, however, a step up from some of nuTonomy‘s previous trials with driverless vehicles in 2014 – back then, the flashy ride was in fact an electric golf cart.
The new taxi trial currently consists of a fleet of six cars – each of them has a complex system of lasers that operate like a radar to monitor the car’s surrounding. In addition there are cameras that work with the software.
Why Singapore is selected for Self Driving Taxis?
The city is already a bit of a taxi heaven. Owning your own car is expensive and many people take taxis on a regular basis. Cab rides are cheap and there’s a very high demand.
Also, the city’s overall traffic situation is rather disciplined and organised. More often than not when Singaporeans talks about a traffic jam, all they mean are a few cars more than usual at a traffic light.
So 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 – that’s according to nuTonomy.