nuTonomy, the software developer already testing self-driving cars in a trial in Singapore, has announced that it will begin on-street testing of its self-driving cars in Boston, MA later this year.
The announcement came after nuTonomy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, authorising it to begin testing its fleet of self-driving cars on specific public streets in the city.
During the Boston tests, which will take place in the city’s Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, nuTonomy’s software system will learn to recognise local signage and road marketings.
The software will also build a deeper understanding of pedestrian, cyclist and driver behaviour and the ways they interact in a complex urban driving environment.
An engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle during testing to observe the system’s performance and take over control from the self-driving car if needed.
nuTonomy said that it hopes to expand the testing area to others parts of Boston “in the near future”.
The Boston tests will allow the company to build on the knowledge it has gained from the public road tests and trials it is conducting in Singapore. nuTonomy plans to launch its self-driving mobility-on-demand service in Singapore in 2018.
“Boston and Massachusetts are leaders in rethinking the future of transportation, and we are grateful for their partnership and support of nuTonomy’s efforts to develop a fleet of self-driving cars to serve the public,” said nuTonomy CEO and co-founder Karl Iagnemma.
The Boston tests would allow the company’s engineers to adapt its self-driving software to the weather and traffic conditions presented by the city's “unique driving environment”, said Iagnemma.
“Testing our self-driving cars so near to nuTonomy’s home is the next step towards our ultimate goal: deployment of a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service.”
In October, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued Executive Orders to direct the development of on-street testing for driverless vehicles.
The city will monitor the effects of autonomous vehicles, to identify how they can contribute to the goals of Boston’s transportation plan – Go Boston 2030.
Mayor Walsh said: “Boston is ready to lead the charge on self-driving vehicles, and I am committed to ensuring autonomous vehicles will benefit Boston’s residents.
“This is an exciting step forward, and together with our public and private partners, we will continue to lead the way in creating a safe, reliable and equitable mobility plan for Boston's residents.”
In a statement, nuTonomy said that autonomous vehicles promise to “dramatically reduce” road fatalities and injuries, as well as improving freedom for people unable to drive.
By using electric vehicles for its mobility-on-demand service, nuTonomy also hopes to reduce the carbon footprint of urban transport.
The company completed a $16M Series A funding round led by Highland Capital Partners earlier this year.
Bob Davis, General Partner at Highland Capital Partners, said: “Autonomous vehicles will transform human transportation and over the course of the next generation cars everywhere will drive themselves.
“Boston leading the way is yet another example of its position as a global hub of innovation.”