In the cutthroat world of technology, if you’re not first, you’re last. With this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see tech companies and automakers clawing to be first in line to release self-driving cars.
Uber recently partnered with Volvo in a $300-million project that should result in a self-driving fleet as early as next month. But amazingly, a 3-year-old company called nuTonomy has beat Uber to the punch by launching the world’s first self-driving taxi in Singapore.
Cambridge, MA,-based nuTonomy has been privately testing self-driving vehicles in Singapore since April and is now allowing select residents in the city’s one-north business district to be driven around in its self-driving taxis for free. Customers will be able to summon one of nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis through the company’s app and will be picked up in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car modified for autonomous driving.
While the taxi will drive itself, an engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to ensure that the car is operating properly and will take over if needed. There’s no word on how many self-driving taxis nuTonomy put on the road, but the trials take the company one step closer to launching its fully autonomous fleet by 2018.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jake Watts managed to get a ride in one of nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis and, while it went well, he claims human cabdrivers may not go extinct any time soon. According to Watts, the self-driving Mitsubishi lacked Tesla’s polish and was overly cautious. The car did a fine job of avoiding jaywalkers, parked cars, and pedestrians on the short drive, but hesitated often, which could gives riders motion sickness, Watts said.
nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma will be speaking at Autoblog’s UPSHIFT 2016 conference on transportation technology on October 6 in Detroit.