Company debuts world's first driverless taxi in Singapore

by Lucy Hook29 Aug 2016
Singapore is a step closer to becoming a smart-city, as a driverless 'robo-taxi' - the first of its kind - hit the streets as part of a public trial by Singapore developer nuTonomy, beating tech giants Uber and Google.

nuTonomy's 'robo-taxi' made Singapore the first country in the world where self-driving taxis are available to consumers, after it began trialling the free taxi-hailing system in the one-north business district.

Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, said in an interview on Thursday that the Singapore government had given the company the blessing to trial the scheme, as part of the country's vision to become a 'smart-city', and the company announced a research partnership with Singapore's Land Transport Authority last month.

He said: “We are placing a strong bet that Singapore is going to be the first country in the world to offer a consumer service” on a national scale, adding that nuTonomy is targeting an island-wide autonomous taxi service as soon as 2018, WSJ reports.

Other tech companies, such as Chinese internet giant Baidu have been testing self-driving cars on the roads for years, but this is the first time the vehicles have been open to public use, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Speaking of the company's rivals in the tech-race, Parker described Uber as "the Goliath".

“We need to show that our technology is working and getting to a level of maturity that is viable for the marketplace,” he said, adding: “We’re in a technology race here and I think there are going to be a handful of winners.”

The trial invited a select group of people to download the nuTonomy app and ride for free in the driverless car, which is currently manned by an engineer who sits behind the steering wheel to monitor the system and take control if necessary.

Karl Iagnemma,CEO of Nutonomy, which was founded in 2013 by ex-MIT engineers, said: “We plan to keep offering rides as long as we continue to learn new things from the data.”

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