Self-driving taxis have hit the road in Singapore

For decades, taxis were the only bridge between public transit and private car ownership. Then, Uber, Lyft, and other tech-centric companies basically “hacked” the taxi industry by adding smartphone features and, speaking as someone who lives in car capital Los Angeles, standardizing much lower fares. The next obvious step in the tech-ification of transit is self-driving cars, and in Singapore, the world’s first self-driving taxi fleet has taken flight.

The tech start-up nuTonomy began offering its service to riders via specific drop-off and pick-up points, and only with a 2.5-square-mile area. But the company has plans to expand both its fleet size (from six to a dozen and then, the world) and its reach within the next two years.

Of course, these self-driving cars aren’t without supervision of any human kind. A person from nuTonomy is stationed behind the wheel of each of these taxis so that, should the occasion arise, they can manually maneuver the car. And, each car is kitted out with a bevy of electronic monitors, giving a whole new dimension to the phrase “eyes on the road.”

While many of nuTonomy’s researchers come from MIT, because of Singapore’s small and generally traffic rules-abiding citizenry, nuTonomy opted to first test its cars there. But Americans, our time is nigh — Uber is beginning to test its own autonomous cars in Pittsburgh in a few weeks.