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First consumer autonomous car trial to begin in Singapore

Cars that drive themselves is something that we’re gradually easing towards with trials and tests, but nobody has begun a full commercial roll out of the technology, until now. In Singapore they’ve signed off on the first official test of autonomous taxis, with MIT spin off, Nutonomy, beating the likes of Uber to the punch.

Tesla was the first company to really put autonomy out there for consumers to use, though it recommended people keep their hands on the wheel at all times. When they didn’t, sometimes there were fatal consequences, sometimes the complete opposite. But true, hands free, driverless vehicles were much further away from reality, right?

Uber wanted to change that by launching its first driverless taxi scheme in Pittsburgh by the end of August, but Nutonomy has scooped it by launching this week in Singapore. Using the Nutonomy app, riders can hail a taxi within a particular business park, at which point it will show up, take them where they need to go and then move on to the next customer.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp13jIr8Y7E’]

The Guardian does point out that this is still very much a trial. It will be limited to the business park and surrounding areas and will have a backup safety driver in place should the car veer from its planned route. However unless that happens, they won’t touch the wheel, which should make this the first real test to see how commercially viable cars without drivers might be.

While legislation in certain countries still requires autonomous cars to have steering wheels and pedals, Nutonomy believes that driverless vehicles will not be fully realised until we don’t need to pay attention to the road any more.

“Introducing a human operator in the loop brings an enormous amount of complexity and unpredictability,” said Nutonomy CEO, Karl Iagnemma. “These ‘simpler’ systems [like Tesla’s Autopilot] are in fact harder to develop and harder to guarantee their safety than [fully autonomous] cars.”

Currently there is no set time scale for the trial, though we would expect any successes to see it ramped up to include more cars and a wider pickup area.

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KitGuru Says: Bring it on. I’m ready to get rid of my car if a local, cheap taxi can pick me up whenever I need to go somewhere.

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