Driver­less taxi com­pany eyes ex­pan­sion in Asia

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

A US soft­ware firm which chose Singapore for the world’s first pub­lic trial of driver­less taxis hopes to be op­er­at­ing in 10 Asian and US cities by 2020.

Doug Parker, nuTon­omy’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, said the firm is eyeing tests by early next year in three other Asian coun­tries which he de­clined to name.

He said an an­nounce­ment of the test venues would be made within the next month or so.

The com­pany last week kicked off the world’s first driver­less taxi ser­vice in a lim­ited trial for in­vited peo­ple in a Singapore re­search cam­pus.

Mr Parker said nuTon­omy was also con­sid­er­ing tri­als in the Mid­dle East, the United States and Bri­tain.

More than a dozen peo­ple in Singapore have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced a ride in the “robo-taxi” within the con­fines of One-north, an en­clave of tech­nol­ogy and re­search in­sti­tutes out­side the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict.

“I think peo­ple are pretty ex­cited that the car is driv­ing it­self. I would say they start ap­pre­hen­sive and scared but by the sec­ond block they start to en­joy it,” Mr Parker said.

The cur­rent test car – a mod­i­fied Mit­subishi i-MiEV elec­tric ve­hi­cle – plies a 2.5-square-mile (4-squarek­ilo­me­tre) area with set pick-up and drop off points. Trips must be booked through the com­pany’s smart­phone app and are cur­rently by in­vi­ta­tion only.

Five other test cars – Re­nault Zoes – will be added next month.

Data from the ex­per­i­ment will feed into the roll­out of driver­less taxis across Singapore in 2018, said Mr Parker, adding that by 2020 “we would like to be in 10 cities in Asia, the United States and maybe Europe”.

He also said a num­ber of realestate de­vel­op­ers from Asia and the United States have con­tacted the com­pany “about how they can use au­ton­o­mous cars in their eco-friendly com­mu­ni­ties”.

Mr Parker said the ve­hi­cle, equipped with so­phis­ti­cated laser, radar and cam­eras, has so far ex­pe­ri­enced nav­i­gat­ing among buses, slow­ing down at pedes­trian lanes and ad­just­ing to un­planned street scenes.

Mr Parker said nuTon­omy chose Singapore for the pub­lic tests rather than Sil­i­con Val­ley be­cause of the pres­ence of a “loyal tech­ni­cal tal­ent” – in­clud­ing peo­ple with doc­tor­ates in robotics – whom it does not have to share with other com­pa­nies like Ford and Ap­ple.

The com­pany also has the full sup­port of the Singapore govern­ment and the city-state’s flat ter­rain, well-marked roads and dis­ci­plined driv­ers make it well suited for driver­less cars, Mr Parker said. –

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