A tech pioneer in Singapore plans to test self-driving taxis

The first of the self-driving taxis will have human drivers, but the plan is to phase humans out in 2019.

Delphi Automotive says driverless cabs could reduce an average $3-a-mile ride to 90 cents.

Singapore just signed off on its second major deal to bring self-driving taxis to the nation starting next year.

The small island nation's government has enthusiastically embraced innovations in urban transportation, adapting its regulations, securing the infrastructure, and now making the necessary partnerships to launch fleets of autonomous all-electric vehicles users can hail with their smartphones.

Delphi Automotive announced Tuesday it will provide six self-driving vehicles to shuttle citizens around the business district. Beyond delivering a fee reduction from an average $3-a-mile ride to 90 cents, as the BBC reported, Delphi plans to drum up confidence in the new technology.

"It allows us to demonstrate that we have the complete ecosystem, knowledge and capability, the vehicle, the sensors, the automated software controlling connectivity to the cloud, the management of the fleet, the data and analytics on how the vehicle is performing," says Glen DeVos, vice president of engineering for Delphi told The Verge.

Delphi began talks with the Singapore Land Transport Authority after the supplier's successful coast-to-coast autonomous drive of the US last year in an Audi SQ5.

And this past year, DeVos tells Forbes, has been more active in the auto industry as any time period he can recall, as plans are being laid for the real-world deployment of autonomous driving technology.

Though at first Delphi's fleet will only be able to travel along pre-defined routes between transit stations, Delphi is generating precise 3-D maps of the entire test region in order to offer point-to-point travel within the area. A driver will be on-hand in case of system failure in the initial launch period of the new cabs, but Delphi plans to phase out the need for human drivers, and the steering wheel altogether, in 2019.

When the pilot program ends in 2020, DeVos told the BBC he hopes to expand to an operational fleet of up to 50 vehicles. Delphi is already running an autonomous fleet in Silicon Valley, and several similar pilot programs are in the works in North America and Europe.

NuTonomy, a driverless car startup that spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been testing its technology on Singapore's streets for some time and plans to have five to 10 driverless taxis in the same business district by 2018, according to the BBC.

Singapore's densely packed urban population, well-maintained roads, and year-round warm weather make the nation an ideal testing ground for automated mobility on-demand (AMOD), as Forbes reported. Residents frequently take taxis and cars likely won't face the hurdles of unexpected weather events or road problems.

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