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Self driving taxis hit Singapore

A small group of residents in Singapore can now hail self-driving taxis with their smartphones, in the world’s first public trial of autonomous driving technology.

While billed as a pioneering trial, the service covers a relatively small area and its riders will be handpicked.

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 a 200-hectare research and high-tech business park. An engineer from the company will ride in vehicles to monitor performance and take the wheel if required, according to a release from Singapore-based startup nuTonomy.

NuTonomy runs one of several autonomous driving projects in the island nation, which is promoting the technology as part of efforts to reduce a reliance on privately owned cars. Public transit operator SMRT Corp. set up a joint venture in April with a Netherlands-based company to operate “driverless pods.” A center for testing and research of autonomous vehicles was set up this month by the land transport authority and one of its universities.

Self-driving taxis came into focus after Uber Technologies Inc. said it will soon allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon autonomous cars with their phones. Like nuTonomy’s trial, that fleet of specially modified Volvo XC90 SUVs will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat. (Bloomberg)