nuTonomy, the Singapore-based startup which beat Uber to introduce first public trials of its self-driving cars, is now gearing up to run its self-driving cars in the streets of Boston. The company today announced that it has signed an agreement with Boston officials to bring its autonomous technology to the city later this year.
The MIT spin-off company will begin testing its modified Renault Zoe electric cars in an industrial park, i.e Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, in the city of Boston. The primary aim of launching this test in the United States is to train and adapt the self-driving vehicles to weather and traffic conditions of the country. It will also enable the self-driving cars to learn street signs and traffic signals, which might differ to those operating in Singapore. This will also enable the underlying self-driving software to understand the complexities of urban driving.
Commenting on the company’s entry into the States, nuTonomy co-founder and CEO Karl Iagnemma, says,
These tests in the city of Boston will enable our engineers to adapt our autonomous vehicle software to the weather and traffic challenges of this unique driving environment. Testing our self-driving cars so near to nuTonomy’s home is the next step towards our ultimate goal: deployment of a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service.
The company is once again conducting its self-driving test in a public area which is synonymous to Singapore’s 2.5 sq. km. business district, One North. But this time around, nuTonomy hasn’t partnered with any cab aggregator to ferry people from point A to point B. Instead, the tests will be conducted in the presence of an engineer and involve only a single car.
In an official statement, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also aired his views on this partnership:
Boston is ready to lead the charge on self-driving vehicles, and I am committed to ensuring autonomous vehicles will benefit Boston’s residents. This is an exciting step forward, and together with our public and private partners, we will continue to lead the way in creating a safe, reliable and equitable mobility plan for Boston’s residents.
For those unaware, this Singaporean startup was the first one to introduce public tests for its self-driving vehicles in the country in August this year. nuTonomy even beat some of the major tech behemoths who’ve been working on the development of autonomous technologies for the past couple of years (or even more in the case of Google). The following month, the company announced that it was extending its pilot program to enable a few select individuals to call a nuTonomy vehicle using the cab aggregation app Grab.
During these test rides, a company engineer is always present in the vehicle to monitors operations, analyse data, and take manual control of the vehicle in times of crisis. Talking about crisis, one of nuTonomy’s self-driving vehicles was caught in a minor accident when it collided with a while changing lanes. Fortunately, no casualties were reported during this incident. Its primary rival Uber is currently conducting its public trials in the city of Pittsburgh, and it should be extremely worried about the arrival of its arch-enemy in the States.