More self-driving cars to hit Singapore streets

Public trial involving nuTonomy autonomous vehicles has been extended to support ride-sharing services offered by Grab.

More self-driving vehicles are expected to hit Singapore streets, following a new partnership deal to extend an ongoing pilot to include ride-sharing services.

Autonomous car software developer, nuTonomy, last month launched a trial in the city-state offering the public self-driving taxi rides. Select passengers can hail the free cab rides using their smartphones within the 2.5 square-mile One-North business district, comprising specific pickup and dropoff points.

In a statement Friday, nuTonomy said it inked an agreement with Southeast Asian ride-sharing operator Grab, to extend the public trial to its customers. The partnership would provide deeper insights on user experience, for example, around how passengers book and interact with self-driving vehicles. Coupled with Grab's fleet routing and mapping technology, nuTonomy added that data extracted from both companies' software could be tapped to improve routing and mapping for autonomous vehicles.

To book a ride, passengers would have to use Grab's mobile app to book a ride via the "robo-car" fleet icon, indicating their preference for a nuTonomy self-driving car. Customers would be able to travel within the One-North zone as well as adjacent neighbourhoods.

All rides with the autonomous vehicles would be provided for free, and would be accompanied by a nuTonomy safety driver as well as support engineer for performance monitoring and safety. The safety driver would assume manual control if the trip required travel on roads outside of the One-North area, taking control of the car for that portion of the journey.

According to nuTonomy, the Singapore public trial would run for another two months and might be extended if more feedback and data were required. The three-year-old startup is based in Singapore and Massachusetts.

Adding that the company was targeting to launch its service commercially in 2018, CEO and co-founder, Karl Iagnemma, said the partnership with Grab would offer "valuable feedback and consumer insights".

With Grab's traffic data revealing that drivers in Singapore were less likely to accept bookings from and heading to remote locations, nuTonomy said self-driving vehicles could help address such underserved demand.

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