Self-Driving Cars Coming to Boston


Autonomous tech maker nuTonomy is returning to its Massachusetts roots to test self-driving cars in Boston. The MIT spin-off will put its self-driving Renault Zoe electric vehicle on the road in the Seaport section of the city before year's end.

During the road trials, nuTonomy's software is expected to learn local signage and road markings, as well as build on behavioral knowledge gained during recent trials in Singapore.

"These tests in the City of Boston will enable our engineers to adapt our autonomous vehicle software to the weather and traffic challenges of this unique driving environment," nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said in a statement.

For safety's sake, an engineer will be along for the ride, observing performance and ready to assume control, if needed.

"Testing our self-driving cars so near to nuTonomy's home is the next step toward our ultimate goal: deployment of a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service," Iagnemma added.

The company plans to work with Boston officials to expand its testing area to other parts of the city "in the near future."

"This is an exciting step forward," Mayor Martin Walsh said. "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."

The first public trial began in August in Singapore's one-north business district, where the startup has been testing vehicles since April. Initial participants were invited to use nuTonomy's mobile ride-hailing app to book a free trip in a self-driving car—the Renault Zoe or a Mitsubishi i-MiEV—decked out with high-performance sensing and computing components.

NuTonomy, aiming for a commercial robo-taxi launch in Singapore in 2018, also operates self-driving cars in Michigan and the UK.

Meanwhile, autonomous tech rival Tesla Motors over the weekend released a sort of behind-the-scenes look at its Autopilot technology. Watch the full self-driving demonstration below to see how the car's integrated cameras navigate traffic, stop lights, and pedestrians before parking itself. Chief Elon Musk also tweeted a sped-up version hilariously set to the Benny Hill Show theme song.

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