Autonomous taxis are coming, perhaps sooner than people think. Uber recently announced a trial of self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh, but followers of the tech scene were disappointed to learn that the company will not be using EVs, but legacy gas-guzzling SUVs.
As it happens, the California giant has been scooped by a small MIT spin-out called Nutonomy, which has already begun a pilot of autonomous taxis in a Singapore business park, using Mitsubishi i-Mievs and Renault Zoes.
In the pilot, which will eventually have a dozen vehicles, riders use Nutonomy’s app to summon a ride. As in Uber’s experiment, there is a limited service area, and a driver behind the wheel just in case.
“The pilot is going to allow us to collect technical data, but equally importantly, it’s going to allow us to find out if people enjoy riding in driverless cars,” says Karl Iagnemma, Nutonomy’s CEO. “When people get into the car, some will love it, some will be indifferent and some won’t like it. But how many won’t like it? 3% of the ridership, or 30%? We want to know that number. And Uber wants to know that number, too.”
Like many players in the autonomy scene, Iagnemma believes that fully autonomous vehicles, with no human driver, are the future. “Introducing a human operator in the loop brings an enormous amount of complexity and unpredictability,” says he. “These ‘simpler’ systems [like Tesla’s Autopilot] are in fact harder to develop and harder to guarantee their safety than [fully autonomous] cars.”
Source: The Guardian