The nuTonomy team.
Courtesy of MIT.

A darkhorse in the race to autonomy

By Robert Hackett
April 5, 2016

NuTonomy, a driverless car startup that spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology three years ago, has its sights set on operating a fully autonomous taxi service in Singapore.

The firm, which raised $3.6 million in seed funding in Jan., is planning to debut a pilot program at One North, a business park in downtown Singapore, later this year, reports IEEE Spectrum. Last month the company passed its first driving test in that country, one of the founders told MIT News.

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The 25-person firm is facing off against a number of bigger-name rivals such as Google goog , Tesla tsla , Uber and traditional automakers such as Ford f , General Motors gm , and Toyota tm , in the race to deploy autonomous vehicles.

Thanks to nuTonomy and MIT’s partnership with Singapore, a country with dense urban areas has been highly receptive to driverless car technology, the comparatively small company could become the first to operate fully self-driving cars, known as “level four,” in a city commercially. Google, in comparison, is testing out cars rated “level three,” meaning that humans are sometimes needed to take the wheel, on public roads in the United States.

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The company is working now to gain approval for the pilot program with hopes of eventually expanding the number of taxis involved to the thousands. “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,” Emilio Frazzoli, nuTonomy co-founder and chief technology officer and MIT professor of aeronautics, told MIT News.

NuTonomy is developing self-driving software for companies such as Jaguar and Land Rover as well. “There’s a real opportunity for companies like ours to be providers of this technology,” Karl Iagnemma, co-founder and chief executive officer, told IEEE Spectrum.

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