Uber Rival Launches Self-Driving Fleet In Singapore, Summons Vehicles Through Smartphone App

Sep 23, 2016 04:32 AM EDT | Sovan Mandal

Tags Grab, NuTonomy, Uber

The Singapore-based ride-hailing service Grab and NuTonomy have entered into a partnership that would enable commuters to hail self-driving cars for their daily commute.

All of it forms part of a public trial for NuTonomy that the ex-MIT engineers have been testing for some time now. The partnership with Grab will only work towards enhancing the scope of the trials even more. Much like Uber's autonomous cars that are being tested in Pittsburgh, the NuTonomy taxis too will be accompanied by two of their engineers to monitor proceedings, The Verge reported.

However, the service has largely been restricted to a small 1.5 square-mile region in Singapore which the authorities have earmarked for testing autonomous driving tech. Called North 1, it comprises of the business district though the rides can also stretch to the nearby blocks but with the accompanying engineers taking over the taxi controls during such times.

The trial will run for two months and the rides will be free during the time. There will be six taxis comprising of modified Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs that have been earmarked for the trials. During the time, Grab users can hail the self-driving taxis by tapping on the 'robo-car' icon in the Grab app.

Grab also revealed to TechCrunch their partnership with NuTonomy does not call for any investment in either companies. However, it's still a win-win situation for both as Grab gets to have a first-hand experience dealing with self-driving taxis while NuTonomy gets the chance to perfect its technology in some real-word scenario.

Maybe NuTonomy gets to take away more from the partnership as it pushes ahead with its agenda to run a fleet of fully autonomous taxis by 2018. For Grab, it can be considered as a future case scenario and the experience thus gained will come in handy if it ever chooses to operate autonomous taxis in future.

Grab is widely considered as the Uber of South-East Asia though unlike its American rival, the firm just operates in just six countries in the regions. Also, with the primary road and traffic infrastructure in those countries still being in the developing stage, experts opine its brush with autonomous technology could be short-lived or have a very limited scope.

In contrast, Uber operates in some of the most developed regions of the world having the best of traffic infrastructure. Its penchant for self-driving technology is all too well known and has recently started trial run of a fleet of around 200 Volvo V90 SUVs specially adapted to drive on its own.

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