The first driverless taxis in the world were launched Thursday in Singapore, Associated Press reports. They were created by the company nuTonomy and can be used for now only by certain clients in a restricted area of the city.
In recent years, several companies, including Google and Volvo tested autonomous cars on public roads, but nuTonomy claims it will be the first to offer such a service to the public. Representatives of the startup wish so to overcome Uber, which plans to offer in the near future autonomous vehicles to travelers in Pittsburgh.
“Quite frankly I think Uber is the Goliath and we need to show that our technology is working and getting to a level of maturity that is viable for the marketplace,” Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, said in an interview Thursday. “We’re in a technology race here and I think there are going to be a handful of winners.”
According to representatives of nuTonomy, this special taxi service starts with six cars, but will reach by the end of the year a number of twelve. The company intends to have a fleet of taxis consists entirely of autonomous cars by 2018. The model could then be adopted in many cities in the world, in Asia, USA and Europe, according to the source.
For now, driverless taxis will operate in a residential and business area of about 6.5 square kilometers, and customers will have to have an invitation from nuTonomy in order to be allowed to use the service. Company representatives said that on the list there are already dozens of people and it will increase to several thousand in the coming months.
Pang Kin Keong, Singapore’s transport secretary, who heads a government committee on autonomous driving, said: “We face constraints in land and manpower. We want to take advantage of self-driving technology to overcome such constraints, and in particular to introduce new mobility concepts which could bring about transformational improvements to public transport in Singapore.”