Singapore unveiled the world’s first driverless taxi today during a limited public trial.
The taxi was created by nuTonomy, which was started by two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The trials will be conducted on an on-going basis in Singapore’s one-north business district, where the company has been testing the vehicles since April. Select residents from Singapore will be invited to use the new “robo-taxis” via the company’s app, with no charge for the rides.
The vehicles will include either a Renault Zoe or a Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car, and riders will be accompanied by an engineer who will monitor the system in case of emergencies.
But there are some driverless cars (erm, buses) out there that are functioning without an engineer to monitor everything—case and point:
The trials will provide feedback ahead of the planned public launch of the service in 2018.
The company is the first to gain permission from Singapore’s government to test autonomous vehicles on public roads, and is hoping to have 100 taxis working commercially in Singapore by 2018.
Though the current trials are by invitation, the company said it plans to expand the service to thousands of people in the next few months.
“This is really a moment in history that’s going to change how cities are built, how we really look at our surroundings,” said nuTonomy executive Doug Parker in an interview with Reuters.
The company has spearheaded the race to get autonomous vehicles on the road, with Uber planning an upcoming launch of autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Besides Singapore, nuTonomy also operates self-driving cars in Michigan and in the UK, where it is testing its software with Jaguar Land Rover.
Talia Avakian is a digital reporter at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @TaliaAvak.