The first driverless taxi company in the world, NuTonomy, has started picking up passengers in Singapore as part of a public trial.
Passengers must be invited to use the self-driving taxi service, with the rides in modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles to be confined within the One North business district, reported Bloomberg.
The company says dozens have signed up for the launch, and it plans to expand that list to thousands of people within a few months.
During the rides, there will be an engineer from NuTonomy at all times to watch the system and assume control when necessary.
Throughout the trial, the company will collect and evaluate data related to the software’s performance, the booking process, vehicle routing, and the overall passenger experience, allowing the company to refine operations in preparation for the commercial launch in 2018.
The service is starting with six cars and the company aims to grow the fleet to a dozen by year-end.
Each car is fitted with six sets of Lidar — a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar — including one that constantly spins on the roof.
There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights.
NuTonomy’s ultimate goal is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply reduce the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads from 900,000 to 300,000, and the company said the model could eventually be adopted in cities around the world.
The company hopes its leadership in autonomous driving will eventually lead to partnerships with automakers, tech companies, logistics companies and others.
Uber had also recently announced it would soon be rolling out driverless cars to be used as part of its fleet, eventually reducing the need for human drivers.