SINGAPORE (Aug 25): NuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle startup, today launched the world’s first-ever public trial of a robo-taxi service in Singapore.

NuTonomy says in a Thursday statement that the launch of the public trial represents “the first, rapid result” of its partnership with LTA.

The trial is held within the One-North business district, where the company says it has been conducting daily autonomous vehicle (AV) testing since April. It allows select Singapore residents to use NuTonomy’s ride-hailing smartphone app to book a ride in self-driving cars have been configured for autonomous driving by NuTonomy – at no cost.

Comprising Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles, the cars employ the NuTonomy’s software which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components.

However, trial passengers will not be making their trips entirely alone.

A representing engineer from NuTonomy will also be present during the ride to observe system performance, and assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

Through the trial, NuTonomy intends to collect and evaluate data related to software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process, and the overall passenger experience.

“This feedback will give NuTonomy a unique advantage as we work toward deployment of a self-driving vehicle fleet in 2018,” says CEO and co-founder Karl Iagnemma in a statement on Thursday.

Iagnemma believes the trial is a direct reflection of the level of maturity that the company has achieved with its AV software system, besides representing an “extraordinary opportunity” to collect feedback from riders in a real-world setting.

To recap, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Aug 1 announced its signing of separate partnership agreements with NuTonomy and Delphi Automotive Systems to test their self-driving transportation concepts in the one-north test-bed.

The two companies were shortlisted from several participants which submitted proposals for autonomous mobility-on-demand concepts under the Request for Information (RFI) issued by LTA in June last year.

(See LTA to pilot autonomous vehicle programme; test self-driving taxis next year)

NuTonomy was established three years ago, and is currently operating self-driving cars in Singapore, Michigan and the UK, where it tests software in partnership with automotive manufacturers.

In May this year, the company completed a US$16 million ($21.6 million) ‘Series A’ funding led by Highland Capital Partners. This included participation from EDBI, the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board.