World's first self-driving taxis are out on the road in Singapore. The taxis will start picking up passengers from Thursday.
Reports state that select members from the public will be able to avail free taxi rides by booking these cabs through their smartphones. These smart taxis are operated by an autonomous vehicle software startup called nuTonomy.
Various companies including Volvo and Google have been testing self-driving automobiles on public roads for several years, however, nuTonomy says it will be the first company to offer rides to the public. The firm is said to beat Uber, which is scheduled to offer rides in self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in a few weeks.
nuTonomy said that their goal is to have a fleet of self-driving taxis by the year 2018. The firm has planned to release six such cars initially and will expand to a dozen by the end of this year. The firm said that it hopes these cabs can help in relieving the congestion on Singapore roads. They also added if this model works, it could be adopted by the cities around the world.
"When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities. 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," nuTonomy's chief operating officer, Dough Parker told Bloomsberg.
The startup also said that initially these cabs will only cover a distance of 2.5 square miles in a business and residential district named as "one-north." The cabs will avail pick-ups and drops to certain specified locations. The riders of these cabs should have an invitation from the firm to use their cab service. nuTonomy said that a lot of people have signed up for the launch of these taxis, and the firm has plans of expanding the list of the people to thousands within a few months.