Uber rival Grab signs deal with driverless car developer nuTonomy
nuTonomy, a developer of software for self-driving cars, and Grab, which claims to be Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing app, have entered a partnership to expand nuTonomy’s ongoing public trial of self-driving cars in Singapore, believed to be the first such public trial anywhere in the world.
The trial will give select Grab users a chance to experience the full end-to-end experience of e-hailing and riding in a nuTonomy self-driving vehicle.
Combining nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicle software and technology system with Grab’s fleet routing technology and mapping in its app will enable both companies to study the end-to-end user experience of on-demand hailing of driverless vehicles.
In particular, the companies say the trial will be a valuable opportunity to conduct user experience research around how passengers book and interact with autonomous vehicles.
The results will be used to enhance Grab’s routing technology and mapping for autonomous vehicles, as well as improve the comfort, performance, and safety of nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicles.
Grab customers can now use the Grab app to book a ride in a nuTonomy autonomous vehicle through a special “robo-car” fleet icon. All rides are free-of-charge and customers may travel within the one-north business district as well as to adjacent neighbourhoods.
A nuTonomy safety driver and support engineer will ride in each nuTonomy driverless vehicle to observe system performance and ensure passenger comfort and safety. If a trip requires travel on roads outside of one-north, the safety driver will take control of the vehicle for that portion of the trip.
The public trial will run for the next two months, and may be extended by the companies for as long as it continues to yield valuable feedback and data.
Karl Iagnemma, CEO of nuTonomy, says: “Partnering with Grab to expand our public trial in Singapore will yield valuable feedback and consumer insights as nuTonomy readies our on-demand self-driving car service for commercial launch in 2018.
“nuTonomy’s sophisticated software enables self-driving vehicles to navigate complex urban environments comfortably and safely. This exciting new partnership with a leading ride-hailing company – and its large and growing customer base across Asia – will ensure that we’re also delivering a high quality transportation service that consumers trust.”
According to Grab’s traffic data, drivers in Singapore are less likely to accept a passenger booking request originating from or destined for remote locations. For example, in the more remote areas of Singapore like Jurong Island, Lim Chu Kang and Tuas, passengers are four times less likely to get a successful ride booking on their first try. These findings illustrate the transportation need in the nation’s underserved remote locations that robo-cars can help meet.
Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab, says: “Grab and nuTonomy share a similar vision of advancing Singapore’s world-class public transport network by offering the widest range of mobility services to commuters.
“This landmark tech partnership is a step towards supplementing Singapore’s transport network with an innovative driverless commuting option for underserved areas of Singapore – all accessible through the Grab app. We look forward to collaborating with nuTonomy to research this future mobility solution as part of our growing platform of mobility offerings.”
Yeoh Keat Chuan, managing director, Singapore Economic Development Board, says: “Singapore’s vision is to become a leading location in Asia for the innovation and commercialisation of future mobility technologies and services. We welcome the partnership between nuTonomy and Grab, which will contribute to the development and deployment of self-driving technologies here. It is also a great testament to the vibrancy of the urban mobility ecosystem in Singapore.”
The partnership expands nuTonomy’s first-ever public trial of its self-driving car service, which it launched on August 25 in one-north, Singapore, where nuTonomy has been conducting daily testing of its self-driving cars since April.
Encompassing light and heavy traffic routes, one-north has been designated by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as the testbed for self-driving cars. Singapore is uniquely positioned to become a car-lite society with its world-class public transit network and infrastructure, making the nation an ideal market to trial autonomous vehicle technology.