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 asahi.com

Gallery: World’s first driverless taxi launched to the public

Hide press release Show press release

nuTonomy Launches World’s First Public Trial of Self-Driving Car Service and Ride-Hailing App

Cambridge, MA and Singapore, August 25, 2016 — nuTonomy, the leading developer of state-of-the art software for self-driving cars, today launched the first-ever public trial of a robo-taxi service. The trial, which will continue on an on-going basis, is being held within Singapore’s one-north business district, where nuTonomy has been conducting daily autonomous vehicle (AV) testing since April.

Beginning today, select Singapore residents will be invited to use nuTonomy’s ride-hailing smartphone app to book a no-cost ride in a nuTonomy self-driving car that employs the company’s sophisticated software, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components. The rides will be provided in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle that nuTonomy has specially configured for autonomous driving. An engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

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.

Earlier this month, nuTonomy was selected by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) as an R&D partner, to support the development of a commercial AV service in Singapore. This trial represents the first, rapid result of this partnership. nuTonomy is the first, and to date only, private enterprise approved by the Singapore government to test AVs on public roads.

CEO and co-founder of nuTonomy, Karl Iagnemma, said, “nuTonomy’s first-in-the-world public trial is a direct reflection of the level of maturity that we have achieved with our AV software system. The trial represents an extraordinary opportunity to collect feedback from riders in a real-world setting, and this feedback will give nuTonomy a unique advantage as we work toward deployment of a self-driving vehicle fleet in 2018.”

In May of this year, nuTonomy completed a $16M Series A funding led by Highland Capital Partners that included participation from Fontinalis Partners, Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and EDBI, the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board.

In addition to Singapore, nuTonomy is operating self-driving cars in Michigan and the United Kingdom, where it tests software in partnership with major automotive manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover.