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MIT’s NuTonomy aims to bring self-driving taxis to Singapore by 2018

Google’s self-driving car project, GM’s purchase of autonomous vehicle technology company Cruise Automation, and Volvo’s driverless car testing are all pushing driverless tech forward. Meanwhile, MIT spinoff NuTonomy is on track to actually put self-driving taxis on the streets of Singapore in two years, according to TechCrunch.

NuTonomy has been in business since 2013 and is currently testing driverless cars in Michigan and in the U.K. with Jaguar Land Rover. The company’s headquarters is close to its academic roots in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but the firm also has an office in Singapore. NuTonomy works closely with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and is making great strides in bringing autonomous vehicles quickly to the high-tech city-state. NuTonomy has been in Singapore for a while, and in 2014 tested self-driving golf carts there that could be summoned with a smartphone app.

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The SMART group focuses on improving citizens’ quality of life in Singapore with technology. In addition to driverless cars, SMART initiatives include improved security, cashless wallets, and a big push to support entrepreneurship. One component of the plan is to design roads in Singapore that are specifically engineered for driverless cars.

Singapore only recently started the process of approving ride-hailing taxi services, and NuTonomy is now testing a fleet of self-driving cabs it expects to be able to deploy commercially in the city by 2018. Clearly in Singapore, the economic climate and the infrastructure work in support of driverless cars, and specifically driverless taxi services, giving NuTonomy a boost in the expected real-world introduction of autonomous cars.

In January NuTonomy announced $3.6 million in seed capital funding. This week the company made public that it has received an additional $16 million in funding to further autonomous car testing. NuTonomy focuses on retrofitting existing vehicles rather than building driverless cars from the ground up. With testing in such diverse areas as the U.K., Michigan, and Singapore, the firm is gaining broad experience in the technology. And based on their project in Singapore, NuTonomy could be poised to be the first company responsible for launching a fleet of self-driving taxis.