nuTonomy, a Singapore-based company, has launched its first autonomous vehicle (AV) for public hire, making its cars available starting today in the city-state.
In a trial that is the first of its kind, nuTonomy piloted its AVs in Singapore’s 2.5-kilometer square business district, better known as One North, to a limited audience. Using a ride-hailing app, customers ordered a ride (for no fee) and were driven to their destination in the presence of a nuTonomy engineer, whose role is to “…observe system performance and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.” The rides are provided in Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi iMiEV electric vehicles that have been configured for autonomous driving.
The debut of the company’s self-driving car puts its technology on the road ahead of ride-hailing giant Uber, which announced that it would be testing its self-driving technology in Pittsburgh later this month.
The company, which partners up with auto manufacturers to develop its technology, has worked with companies like Renault, Mitsubishi, Jaguar and Land Rover.
“Throughout the trial, nuTonomy will collect and evaluate valuable data related to software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience. This data will enable nuTonomy to refine its software in preparation for the launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018,” says the company’s press release.
The company has been working closely with authorities in Singapore to develop the technology, and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) was one of the company’s backers in its Series A round funding last May, when the company raised US $16 million. The company also raised money from Fontinalis Partners, Signal Ventures and Samsung Ventures.
By using Singapore as its base, the company benefits from the city-state’s support of self-driving technology and the country’s small size. Earlier this month, the company partnered with the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) “…as an R&D partner, to support the development a commercial AV service in Singapore…” To-date, the nuTonomy is the only company approved by the government of Singapore to test AVs.
nuTonomy has been testing its AVs in Singapore’s business district daily since April of this year. The company is also doing tests of their AVs in London and Michigan, where it has partnered with Jaguar and Land Rover.
The company has also announced plans to introduce an autonomous robo taxi service by 2018.