First Driverless Taxi Service Begins Limited Trials in Singapore

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The first driverless taxi hit the roads of Singapore on Thursday, in a limited public trial taking place in a hi-tech business district in a western part of the country (via Reuters).

Developer nuTonomy invited a select group of people to download their ride hailing app and ride for free in its "robo-taxi", saying it hoped to get feedback ahead of a planned launch of the service in 2018.

A nuTonomy self-driving taxi drives on the road in its public trial in Singapore
"This is really a moment in history that's going to change how cities are built, how we really look at our surroundings," nuTonomy executive Doug Parker told Reuters.

The ongoing trial rides are taking place in Mitsubishi i-MiEv electric vehicles, with an engineer sitting behind the wheel to monitor how the system deals with the road and take control if necessary.

The company has partnered with the Singapore government on the project, and hopes to have 100 taxis working commercially in the Southeast Asian city state by 2018.

NuTonomy is one of several companies racing to launch self-driving vehicles, with new projects or alliances between automakers and technology firms being announced on an almost weekly basis.

Last week, Uber announced it would begin allowing customers in Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from within its ride-hailing app, while Ford announced plans to build a fleet of fully automated driverless cars for commercial ride-sharing by 2021. In June it was reported that Uber had held talks with Fiat Chrysler about a potential partnership involving self-driving car technology.

Apple has been the source of many self-driving automobile rumors since last year, but it's now thought the company's first entrance into the vehicle industry likely won't be autonomous, although later generations of its "Apple Car" would probably include the technology.

However, over the summer reports suggested that Apple is taking a "two-prong approach" to its car development, internally known as "Project Titan", and will focus more on creating its own autonomous driving system rather than manufacturing the vehicle.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

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52 months ago
IN-SANE!!! Can you believe this is happening? The future is here!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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52 months ago

One advantage they have is better reaction times than humans. They become smarter as more driverless cars are added to the roads because they could be programmed to talk to each other, automating each other. And you can't seriously tell me you don't believe failsafes won't be installed.

You mean all the failsafes that work splendidly with web sites that constantly get hacked? It's a cat and mouse game and humans are fallible. I concede that highway driving might be a more realistic scenario for driverless technology but I just can't get behind the whole idea. I'm also not saying driverless cars don't have better reaction times – they do – but I also think there are way too many variables that cannot be programmed for that a human can actually discern much better. Just my opinion though.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
This is the future. It's happening.

There will be deaths but the robocars don't need to be perfect. They just need to be better than humans and humans suck at driving.

I hope this goes widespread while I am still young enough to enjoy it. Studying on my commute. Or sleeping. Having kids picked up from school by robocars.

Downtowns reclaimed from
Parking lots, but people suburbs booming because commute time does not matter. Options to choose schools outside districts because commute to school not matter. Housing prices detached from school districts. The potential changes from robocars are absolutely amazing. It is probably the next most disruptive technology since cell phones.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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52 months ago
I think that having a driver behind the wheel makes this a reasonable first step. I am not ready to have a car pull up and have no driver. We need to see this be successful for a while before I feel comfortable. Just look at what has happened to Telsa and the accidents it has had as idiots record themselves on auto pilot. There is still more work to be done, but hopefully by 2018, we will be there.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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52 months ago
C'mon. Our computers and phones crash all the time and they've been programming these for decades. They're constantly hacked and you're telling me that driverless cars are going to work reliably? Color me skeptical. The number of unknown variables driving on the road will make me NEVER trust driverless cars.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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52 months ago

Segway failed for countless reasons. The thing was a new mode of transport that looked ridiculous and couldn't even be used in many places. Not to mention most Americans drive cars everywhere anyway.

I think the point was that the press made a big deal out of it and some of the 'visionaries' predicted it was going to revolutionize things. But, yea, I agree it isn't a great parallel for a number of reasons.

Autonomous cars are vastly improved versions of something we already have.

That's where I disagree. There's no improvement made. It's a downgrade as you're taking a driver with a mind, to make decisions, and trying to replace it with a very incomplete computer program.

There are sensor technology innovations, but those would better serve drivers. I'm sure some of that will happen, but way too much money is being distracted by the autonomous efforts. And, that's besides the danger it poses.

They are, or will soon be, better than manual cars by every objective measure. All you need to do is sit in the car as if it were a taxi or a train, and do what you need to do (work or leisure) instead of focusing on the road, manually driving the vehicle and trying not to die.

No, they won't. They'll be better in some regards (i.e.: where they plug a hole in human limitations... like a sensor that can check a blind-spot, or sensor that could detect a deer in the brush), but worse in others (like actually figuring out what is a road and what isn't, or 'reading' the intent of another driver or pedestrian, etc.).

Trains (automated) work because they are on tracks and the whole system is automated. Even then, it's possible for a train to hit someone who falls on the tracks, or be disrupted by nature in some way (i.e.: a tree falls in the way, and a sensor isn't scanning for it appropriately).

re: not trying to die - maybe tell that to the guy who had his head lopped off in the Tesla recently.

We don't need new roads as manual and autonomous cars will co-exist.

No, not very well. And, that's the problem. *IF* we installed sensors in all roads, or mapped them to an incredible amount of detail... and *IF* ALL vehicles were automated... and *IF* sensor technology gets good enough to detect ALL obstacles that come up unexpectedly... and *IF* programmers can account for all the possible unpredictable things that can still happen. Then, it would work pretty well.

The above is nearly impossible, though, without incredible changes to the entire system. And, even then, will it ultimately be worth it? If all of the above were accomplished, I'll agree that it would probably reduce vehicle deaths. But, we could *easily* accomplish much the same effect if we used the new technology to assist drivers, and tighten up some on licensing requirements and enforcement of existing regulations.

Even though cars are way safer than they have been in the past, most accidents are pretty avoidable. (i.e.: they are due to people being stupid, lack of training, etc.)

The connection you have to manual cars is purely emotional, and the fear of new technology—and speculation of all the ways it can go wrong—is nothing new.

Look, I've been a new technology adopter my whole life. But new tech and sci-fantasy are two different things. Yes, I do love cars and driving. I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm about it. But, I also know a good deal about the limitations of technology and mind-body problem, etc.

To put it simply: AI can do many things, but the way the media and many people view it, is a pipe-dream. These 'autonomous' vehicles will only work as well as the sensors and the software. Have you used a computer recently???

You won't even need to own a car as companies will have large fleets of vehicles everywhere.

You know, even as a car enthusiast, that sounds wonderful. I could maybe have my collector's ePorsche in the garage (which might be impractical for daily living) and just hail a vehicle from a service when I need one; take the ePorsche out to the countryside or track on nice days. Sign me up! I'm just telling you that it isn't going to work like you think.

With enough sensor tech advancement, and extremely good mapping in some urban areas, I'm sure the taxi thing will happen. (And feel like riding with a drunken first-day drivers ed student.) As long as they go really slow and are overly cautious, too many people won't get killed. But, as a whole, this isn't going to go well. I just hope too many won't have to be sacrificed until the hype dissolves.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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