Singapore is getting the world's first fully autonomous taxi service

Photo: nutonomy.com

Full self-driving automation – known as level 4 – is yet to realised in the car industry.

Google’s autonomous cars, for example, are Level 3, meaning they operate with limited self-driving automation, where a driver’s input is sporadically needed.

Other car manufacturers offer semi-autonomous systems, based on autonomous braking, or parking.

But that is about to change thanks to a software company called nuTonomy.

The MIT-collaborated startup is preparing to launch a fully autonomous taxi service in Singapore.

Users will be able to order one of the taxis from their smartphone, and once they have filled in the destination, the car will do the rest of the work, even choosing optimal paths for travelling to reduce traffic congestion.

And because the cars are electric, the service will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the densely populated city.

Photo: nutonomy.com

“This could make car-sharing something that is almost as convenient as having your own private car, but with the accessibility and cost of public transit,” co-founder and CTO Emilio Frazzoli told MIT News Office.

In March the service passed its first driving test in Singapore, completing a driving course without a collision.

Now, nuTonomy is in the process of getting approval for on-road testing in a business district called One North, designated for autonomous-vehicle testing.

While it’s still a few years from reality, Frazzoli told MIT News, nuTonomy aims to deploy thousands of driverless taxis in Singapore.

The launch follows a $3.6 million seed funding round in January, led by Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and Dr. Steven LaValle.

Frazzoli and his co-founders, Karl Iagnemma, first teamed up in 2009 for an MIT experiment in Singapore which set up autonomous golf carts to ferry tourists around a park.

Here’s a look at the buggy in action.

But apparently “no one was paying attention,” said Frazzoli and so they developed a driverless car themselves.

So in 2013 they launched nuTonomy as an autonomous-car consulting service, before pivoting to a fully-fledged autonomous taxi service provider for Singapore last year.

The co-founders have also developed robotic technology with funding from NASA and DARPA.

Last year Singapore launched its Smart Nation initiative, which aims to harness new technologies to improve the life in the island city.

Through the program the government is working towards providing more connectivity, supported by new infrastructure and technical architecture.

MIT News Office has more.

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