“Grab” a Self-Driving Taxi in Singapore

by Enoch

Uber launched self-driving cars in the US last week in Pittsburgh, which I was excited about. I mentioned that Uber was actually not the first ones in the world to do self-driving taxi, since Singapore started its trial a few weeks before.

Well, via The Verge, nuTonomy, the MIT spin out company that developed the self-driving cars, has partnered with a ride-hailing app. The app is called Grab, which some refer to as the Uber of South/Southeast Asia. I took one when I was in Thailand, and was impressed with the relatively seamless experience. Just like Uber, you put in your address, and complete your request and payment via the app.

GrabTaxi in Singapore allows users to hail a ride via their smartphone app

GrabTaxi in Singapore allows users to hail a ride via their smartphone app

All self-driving taxi rides will be free, but are limited to two passengers. This is because one emergency driver and a technician will be up front monitoring the ride. They are ready to take control of the vehicle in case anything goes wrong.

NuTonomy's self-driving car

NuTonomy’s self-driving car

Pittsburgh, with its complicated routes and roads, might be the place to test out the technology. But I would argue that Singapore is the market to also test out how the business end of self-driving taxis work. Only 15% of Singaporeans own a car, and the city relies heavily on public transportation and taxis. Singapore has been ambitious with their efforts, even blocking out a 4-mile stretch of roads just for testing out driverless cars. They are hoping to eventually get 300,000 self-driving cars to satisfy the need of the entire city. In the process, they project that taxi fares will go down dramatically.

If you live in or are traveling to Singapore, it might be fun to try out a driver-less ride!

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