A firm called nuTonomy, a developer of software for self-driving cars, has launched what it says is the first-ever public trial of a ‘robo-taxi’ service. The latest testing – which brings ride-hailing and driverless autonomous vehicles (AV) together – is ahead of the planned launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018.

The trial is being held within Singapore’s one-north business district, where nuTonomy has been conducting daily autonomous vehicle testing since April.

Select Singapore residents will be invited to use nuTonomy’s ride-hailing smartphone app to book a no-cost ride in a nuTonomy self-driving car that employs the company’s software, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components.

The rides will be provided in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle that nuTonomy says it has specially configured for autonomous driving. However, an engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

Throughout the trial, nuTonomy says it will collect and evaluate valuable data related to software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience. This data will enable nuTonomy to refine its software in preparation for the launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018.

Earlier this month, nuTonomy was selected by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) as an R&D partner, to support the development of a commercial AV service in Singapore. This trial represents the first, rapid result of this partnership. nuTonomy is the first, and to date only, private enterprise approved by the Singapore government to test AVs on public roads.

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By GlobalData

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.”

In May of this year, nuTonomy completed a US$16M Series A funding led by Highland Capital Partners that included participation from Fontinalis Partners, Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and EDBI, the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board.

In addition to Singapore, nuTonomy says it is operating self-driving cars in Michigan and the UK, where it tests software in partnership with major automotive manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover.