Taxi Uncles Jobs under Threat from New Driverless Taxi Technology

Poor taxi uncles might soon see their numbers cut.

Their rice bowls have come under threat from new private-hire car services such as Uber and Grab, and now, there’s a new self-driving car service which might phase them out.

nuTonomy has launched a trial for its driverless taxi service in Singapore.

Selected members of the public will be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones in these taxis.

The service will start small — six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a fleet of fully self-driving taxis in Singapore by 2018.

nuTonomy CEO Doug Parker said autonomous taxis could reduce the number of cars on Singapore’s roads from 900,000 to 300,000.

“When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities. You can create smaller roads, you can create much smaller car parks,” Parker said. “I think it will change how people interact with the city going forward.”

The cars used for now are modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics.

During this stage, they come with a driver in front who is prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in back who watches the car’s computers.

Each car is fitted with six sets of Lidar — a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar — including one that constantly spins on the roof.

There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights.

Users of the service so far have reported that the ride is smooth and controlled, but quite ghostly since the steering wheel moves on its own.

The cars apparently are reportedly able to recognise obstacles such as parked motorcycles and even birds, and avoid them.



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