What is thought to be the world's first public trial of a self-driving taxi service has begun in Singapore, beating Uber and Volvo to the punch. For the trial, a group of the city-state's residents can use a ride-hailing smartphone app to book free taxi journeys in one of the firm's autonomous cars.

NuTonomy says it is the first and, to date, only private enterprise approved by the Singaporean government to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The trial is being held in the one-north business district of Singapore, where the autonomous driving software firm has already been testing autonomous vehicles.

Passengers will be transported in either a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle. The cars have been fitted with special hardware for "seeing" the environment around them and employ nuTonomy's own software to fuse, interpret and act upon the incoming data. Although the cars are expected to drive themselves, an engineer will always be in the driver's seat in order to "observe system performance" and take control of the vehicle if need be.

nuTonomy says it is using the trial to collect and evaluate data about software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process and the overall passenger experience. The data collected will be used to refine the firm's software in preparation for a planned full launch of the autonomous taxi service in 2018.

The video below provides an introduction to the trial.

Source: nuTonomy

View gallery - 4 images