nuTonomy are trialling driverless taxis for free

Self-driving taxis are being trialled in Singapore.

Tech company nuTonomy have launched driverless taxis in Singapore and whatsmore, they’re free.

However, as it is only a trial, there is still a driver at the front and wider implementation of self-driving taxis is still years away.

During the trial, the driver is there only to monitor the performance of the vehicle and as a contingency incase something goes wrong.

nuTonomy are a US-based start-up developer of software for self-driving cars. Founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers, the firm has offices in both the US and Singapore.

The company was the first to gain permission from the Singaporean government to test their self-driving cars in a small area of town, with passengers.

The vehicles used are small Renault and Mitsubishi electric vehicles that have been equipped with nuTonomy’s software and cameras. Whists these cars are hardly glamorous, they are a big step above the company’s 2014 trials in an electric golf cart. The current trial consists of a fleet of six cars. Each has a complex laser system that operates like a radar to monitor the surroundings of the vehicle. Cameras aid the radars with the software.

The taxi trial will run in a limited 2.6 sq mile radius in the west of the city-state, with designated pick up and drop off points. Passengers will have to register with nuTonomy to receive an invitation for the trial. Thus far only a dozen people are registered with the programme. The company aims to expand the service to thousands of people within a few months.

Uber is planning a similar project in Pittsburgh, US, in a few weeks time, whilst almost every car company is working on driverless technology. Google was amongst the first to pioneer and test its driverless Google car, teaming up with a number of car companies for research.