If you spot a car rolling down the road without a driver sometime next week, don’t freak out.
Starting Thursday, Singapore will be playing host to the world’s first public trial of self-driving taxis. These Robo-taxis (we prefer RoboCar) developed by American transportation software firm nuTonomy, will be operating in the One North area on a trial basis. While only select users who previously signed up for the trial will be able to hail a free ride through its smartphone app, nuTonomy will be expanding the list to include thousands of riders within a few months.
The service starts with six modified Renault and Mitsubishi electric cars and is limited to specific pick-up and drop-off points for now, but the company has plans to expand into a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018. The end goal according to Doug Parker, nuTonomy's COO, is for autonomous taxis to ultimately reduce the number of cars on Singapore's roads from 900,000 to 300,000.
While the concept of self-driving cars isn’t exactly new (Google has been doing it for years), this is the first time members of the public will actually be able to ride in them. nuTonomy’s trial arrives just a few weeks ahead of transportation giant Uber, which is also planning to roll out rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh sometime in September.
Oh, and if you (understandably) don’t fully trust RoboCar here to make all the right turns and keep you alive, there will be a nuTonomy engineer in the passenger seat during the trials ready to take back the wheel if needed.