By: Kheng-Liang Tan
Singapore has beaten Pittsburgh to become the first city in the World to feature a self-driving taxi service, after ride hailing app Uber announced plans to launch an autonomous service in a fleet of heavily modified Volvo XC90s in the American city several weeks ago.
Autonomous vehicle software startup nuTonomy has began to offer selected members of the public free rides in an Uber style pickup service in a controlled 2.5 square mile area around One-North. Currently, the company has a fleet of six Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i electric vehicles.
These heavily modified cars are fitted with six sets of what the company calls “Lidar”, which is a laser detection system that operate like radar. In addition, there are also two dashboard cameras to scan for obstacles and detect traffic lights changes.
So far, dozens have signed up for the launch, and it plans to expand that list to thousands of people within a few months.
The company plans to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which is expected to cut the number of cars on the road to 300,000 from the current 900,000.
It added that such a model could be adopted in cities around the world.
Other prominent car makers such as Ford plans to mass produce self-driving taxis by 2021 Volkswagen expects first its first self-driving cars on the market by 2019.