Uber loses race to get self-driving taxis on the road

Autonomous cars will give you a free ride around part of Singapore right now...

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File photo. Image: RollingNews.ie

Singapore has become the first country to trial a self-driving taxi service, as nuTonomy beats Uber to the punch with public road tests.

The US-based startup, which was founded by two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began testing a free taxi-hailing service in a small tech district in the city today.

The move comes mere days before Uber begins its own such trials in the US city of Pittsburgh.

As it is in the testing process, you will still be met with a human "co-pilot" when you enter the car, but the vehicle will make the journey entirely autonomously, barring any hiccups.

NuTonomy was granted permission by the Singapore government to carry out the trial earlier this year as part of its ambitions to become a true "smart city".

 As it is not a car manufacturer, nuTonomy has actually decked out small Mitsubishi and Renault vehicles with its own complex laser software and cameras to aid them as they make their way around the 4 sq km area in western Singapore.

There is currently a fleet of six cars in operation, and passengers have to receive an invitation from nuTonomy to get involved in the project. It plans to expand the service to thousands of people within a few months.
The aim is for a fully-fledged fleet to launch from 2018.

Doug Parker, nuTonomy's chief operating officer said:

"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.

"We're in a technology race here and I think there are going to be a handful of winners."