While Uber, Google, Baidu and hundred other automobile manufacturers are busy trying to develop, test and perfect their proprietary autonomous tech, nuTonomy has already beat them all to the punch. The Singapore-based company has today announced the launch of the first-ever public trial of an autonomous ‘robo-taxi’ service in the country.
This means, beginning today, nuTonomy will invite select members from the public to use its ride-hailing app to book a free no-cost ride in the company’s new self-driving car. With permission from the government, the on-going trial is being held within Singapore’s 2.5 sq. km. business district, One North. It is also the same district where nuTonomy has been conducting daily tests on its vehicles since April.
There has always been talks of one of the tech+automobile companies testing its self-driving tech, but there they’ve never provided an affirmative launch date for a public test. There have always been hushed rumors of Google or Tesla being the first ones to drop their self-driving cars on road for public use, but it doesn’t seem so. Uber, who’s also been aggressively working and testing it’s self-driving tech, has recently announced the plans to launch a full-blown fleet of autonomous Volvo vehicles in Pittsburgh in next few weeks.
While nuTonomy, on the other hand, has recently picked Singapore Land Transport Authority(LTA) as its R&D partner to accelerate the development and expansion of a commercial self-driving service to cover the 720 sq. km of Singaporean land. It has also managed to mint a fresh $16 million in Series A funding, thanks to Highland Capital Partners, Fontinalis Partners, Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures and EDBI.
nuTonomy, the three-year old startup that span out of MIT, is using (obviously!?) modified Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles to provide rides to the public. These autonomous cars employ the company’s sophisticated software, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components.
In addition to the passenger who requested the ride, a nuTonomy engineer will also ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and if need be, assume control of the vehicle for the safety and comfortability of the passenger. Throughout the trial, the company will continue to collect and evaluate valuable data to assess software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience.
The data collected from these first-ever public drive test would enable nuTonomy to refine and optimize its autonomous driving software in preparation for the launch of a widely available robo-taxi service by 2018. It is also conducting trial in Michigan and the United Kingdom and counts Jaguar Land Rover as one of its major automotive partners.
Commenting on the same, 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.
This major announcement and launch by nuTonomy has brought the automobile manufacturers to its knees, none of them manufactuers or ride-hailing service can now breath a sigh of relief until they start their own public trials. Though Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has earlier said that the company is not sticking to a definite timeline for the launch of its autonomous vehicles, but they would definitely speed up operations now.
Here’s a quick peek at how the general public felt after taking a ride in nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicle: