Well, that was quick. Soon after rumors surfaced on the Internet, self-driving taxi startup nuTonomy has made official its partnership with Grab, an Uber rival popular in Southeast Asia. The two companies will partner in an effort to expand nuTonomy’s ongoing public trial of self-driving taxis in Singapore. The partnership will give select Grab customers a sweet ride in nuTonomy’s self-driving vehicles.
nuTonomy is said to provide the self-driving vehicle software and systems with Grab’s fleet routing and mapping technology. The trial will provide insight into the user experience of self-driving vehicles and how well passengers book and interact with the newfangled driving machines.
Starting today, select Grab users can hail a ride in a nuTonomy self-driving taxi. Using the Grab app, users can select the self-driving option through a special “robot-car” icon. Like Uber’s self-driving program, all rides are free. The caveat with Grab and nuTonomy is that customers may only travel within Singapore’s one-north business district and surrounding neighborhoods. Engineers are seated in each ride to observe how the self-driving vehicle manages and provide safety for the customer.
nuTonomy says the public trial is expected to last two months. However, the partner companies may extend the trial for feedback and data-collecting purposes.
nuTonony CEO Karl Iagnemma said, “Partnering with Grab to expand our public trial in Singapore will yield valuable feedback and consumer insights as nuTonomy readies our on-demand self-driving car service for commercial launch in 2018. nuTonomy’s sophisticated software enables self-driving vehicles to navigate complex urban environments comfortably and safely. This exciting new partnership with a leading ride-hailing company – and its large and growing customer base across Asia – will ensure that we’re also delivering a high quality transportation service that consumers trust.”
According to Grab’s data, drivers in Singapore are less apt to accept a passenger request originating from remote locations. If a passenger is to hail a Grab from, say, Jurong Island or Tuas, they are four times less likely to get successfully get a ride. Hence, nuTonomy comes into play with its self-driving fleet to offer transportation in underserved areas of Singapore.
Grab CEO Anthony Tan says “Grab and nuTonomy share a similar vision of advancing Singapore’s world-class public transport network by offering the widest range of mobility services to commuters. This landmark tech partnership is a step towards supplementing Singapore’s transport network with an innovative driverless commuting option for underserved areas of Singapore – all accessible through the Grab app. We look forward to collaborating with nuTonomy to research this future mobility solution as part of our growing platform of mobility offerings.”
nuTonomy launched its public trial earlier in August and has been conducting tests of its self-driving cars since April. The company explains Singapore is ideal testing ground for such vehicles as the country has its own highly-mapped road system. Plus, nuTonomy has gained approval from government and transport officials.
If all goes well, nuTonomy hopes for commercial debut of its autonomous taxis by 2018.
You can register for a free ride in nuTonomy’s self-driving taxi by filling out this form.