Self-driving taxis to offer free rides in Singapore

Select members of the public in Singapore will be able to flag down the taxis for a free ride on Thursday.
Written by Jonathan Chadwick, Contributor

Singapore will on Thursday host the world's first self-driving taxis to offer rides to the public.

Select passengers will be able to hail the free taxi rides using their smartphones in Sinagpore's 2.5 square-mile One-North district, only picking up and dropping off passengers at specified points.

Each cab will have a driver prepared to take the wheel in the event of an emergency. A researcher will also be sat in the back to track the car's computers.

The taxis are operated by nuTonomy, an automonous vehicle software startup based in Singapore and Massachusetts. While multiple companies have tested self-driving cars on the roads in recent years, nuTonomy claims their cabs on Thursday will be the first to offer rides to the public.

In May, Uber's self-driving Ford Fusion hit the streets of Pittburgh to test its self-driving capabilities and collect mapping data. The wide-scale adoption of self-driving cars would help the company cut back on expenses such as drivers and insurance, as well as "have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world," the company said, noting that 94 percent of fatal car accidents involve human error.

Despite this, Google's self-driving car was found to be at fault when it struck a public bus in California in February. The company said as a result it would improve software for the vehicles to more accurately differentiate larger vehicles such as buses.

Car manufacturers around the world are working on their own autonomous vehicles. Among them, Volvo has set out plans to test self-driving cars on the streets of London from next year; and Toyota recently opened a research institute with a focus on "fully autonomous" driving. Nissan, BMW, and Hyundai are all looking to have driverless vehicles on roads within the next five years, which is also the amount of time Ford believes driverless cars will take to "change the world".

Earlier this week, Israeli software firm Mobileye and Delphi Automotive announced they would be teaming up to produce a fully autonomous system to speed up the arrival of self-driving cars. Delphi Automotive plans to launch a test fleet of automated taxis next year, also to take place in Singapore.

With AAP

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