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Singapore’s self-driving cars can now be hailed with a smartphone — The world’s first self-driving taxi has finally found its ride-hail network. On Thursday, NuTonomy, an MIT-spinoff testing self-driving cars in Singapore, announced a partnership with Grab, the Uber of Southeast Asia. The partnership will allow NuTonomy to expand its public trial, which started several weeks before Uber launched its own public test in Pittsburgh on August 25th.

Much like Uber’s self-driving test, select Grab users will get the chance to hail one of NuTonomy’s driverless vehicles by tapping the special “robo-car” icon in the Grab app. Pick-ups and drop-offs, though, will only occur in a 1.5-square-mile section of Singapore called North 1, which has been designated by the city-state’s Land Transport Authority as the testbed for self-driving cars.

All rides are free-of-charge and will be accompanied by two NuTonomy engineers — which again also echoes Uber’s approach. The trial will run for two months, with the possibility of extending depending on the feedback. Only six vehicles — modified Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs — will be available for the initial test rides.

Perhaps realizing it needs a more high-minded purpose than just “self-driving cars are cool,” Grab is framing its public test as a way to provide transit to residents of Singapore who lack many options. Grab says its data suggests that drivers in Singapore “are less likely to accept a passenger booking request originating from or destined for remote locations,” which illustrates a possible use for robot cars. Click here for more


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