Driverless taxis take off in Singapore

The world's first driverless taxis started picking up passengers here yesterday, in what is being billed as a pioneering trial.

Invited members of the public can summon a car from a fleet of six reconfigured Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs to ferry them within the One North research and high-tech business park, according to a release from Singapore-based nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup.

A company engineer will ride in the cars to monitor performance and take the wheel if required.

Companies like Google and some Chinese firms have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, but nuTonomy said it is the first to offer rides to the public.

And it has done so a few weeks ahead of Uber, which plans to offer rides to the public in autonomous cars in the US city of Pittsburgh.

The service here plans to have a dozen cars by the end of the year and the goal, said nuTonomy officials, is a fully self-driving taxi fleet by 2018.

The testing time-frame is open-ended, said chief executive Karl Iagnemma. Eventually, riders may start paying for the service and more pick-up and drop-off points will be added. - Agencies.