Taxis without anyone at the wheel? Sure, why not — we sometimes trust computers more than we trust people anyway.
Six self-driving taxis run by autonomous vehicle software start-up nuTonomy will be operating today in a limited test drive on the streets of Singapore, reports Bloomberg. It’s only the beginning; nuTonomy aims have a dozen of them by the end of the year and a proper fleet of self-driving taxis across Singapore by 2018.
Only select members of the public will be able to hail free rides through their smartphones though. Even then, the taxis will only run in the One North cluster of business parks and residences, with specified locations for pick-ups and drop-offs.
For now, the modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics will have a driver up at the front to take back manual control, while a researcher will be sitting in the back to monitor the car’s computers.
Effectively, nuTonomy beat popular ride-hailing service Uber to the punch by a couple weeks regarding rides in autonomous cars. Singapore was chosen as the ideal spot to test out the robot taxis due to its favourable weather conditions, great infrastructure, supportive research environment, and… “drivers who tend to obey traffic rules”, says nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma. Yeah, that’s another way to say we’re real sticklers for rules.
The start-up has big ambitions should their trials go down great here. They’re currently working on testing similar taxi services in other Asian cities as well as in the United States and Europe, with no determined timeline.