Headline September 08, 2016/ ''' SINGAPORE : *nuTONOMY BEATS *UBER* TO THE ROAD* '''



THE WORLD'S FIRST SELF-DRIVING TAXIS started picking up passengers in Singapore  -just this last Thursday.

Members of the public on an invitation list could hail  free rides  through their smartphones in taxis operated by  nuTonomy , a startup that makes software for autonomous vehicles.

While multiple companies, including  Google  and  Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars in on public roads for several years, nuTonomy said it would be the first to offer rides to the public. 

It beat the  ride-hailing service Uber, which plans to offer rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, by a few weeks.

The Singapore service is starting small: six cars now, with plans to increase to a dozen by the end of the year.

The ultimate goal, nuTonomy said, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, with the aim of sharply cutting the number of cars on the city's roads. eventually, the model could be adopted in cities around the world, nuTonomy said.

For now, the taxis are to run only in a 2.5 square-mile business and residential district called  One-North, and pickups and drop-offs will be limited to specified locations. 

*A rider must have an invitation from nuTonomy to use the service*.

The company said that dozens had signed up for the introduction and that it planned to expand the list to thousands within a few months.

The taxis   -Renault Zoe and  Mtsibuishi i-MiEV electric cars that have been modified   -have a driver in front who is prepared to take the wheel and a researcher in back who watches the  car's computers.

The time frame for testing is open-ended, said nuTonomy's chief executive officer, Karl Iagnemema. More pickup and drop-off points will be added, and eventually, riders may start paying for the service during the tryout phase.

nuTonomy is working on testing similar taxi services in other Asian cities as well as in the United States and Europe.
''I don't expect there to be a time where we say we have learned enough.'' Mr. Iagnemma said.

Doug Parker, nuTonomy's chief operating officer, said autonomous taxis could ultimately reduce the number of cars on Singapore's roads to 300,000 from 900,000.

''When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities,'' he said.

''You can create smaller roads,  you can create much smaller car parks. I think it will change how people interact with the city, going forward.''

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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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