Singapore is to become the home of the world’s first self-driving taxis. From this very week, passengers will be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by nuTonomy, a startup company operating their own brand of autonomous vehicles.
By doing so, they have beat notable self-driving pioneers Google, Tesla, and Faraday Future to the punch. They’ve even trumped Uber, which has self-driving ambitions of its own, although the taxi company has stated that they will begin a passenger service in Pittsburgh this August, with two Uber team members riding alongside passengers in an alpha testing phase.
Singapore’s nuTonomy self-driving Renault and Mitsubishi electric taxis will nevertheless be the first of their kind in the world, although also with a human driver on standby in the vehicle. All taxis are equipped with Lidar, a surveying technology that measures distance using lasers, which the vehicle’s on-board computers use to navigate their surroundings.
Starting with just six cars, the service will expand to about 12 by the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to have a sizable, fully-autonomous fleet by 2018.
Not only would this be gloriously high-tech and safer than regular taxis, but it would reduce congestion on Singapore’s incredibly busy, chaotic roads. Doug Parker, nuTonomy’s chief operating officer, claims it could ultimately take 600,000 cars off the road.
“When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities. You can create smaller roads, you can create much smaller car parks,” Parker told the Associated Press. “I think it will change how people interact with the city going forward.”
Singapore. Sean Pavone/Shutterstock