Self-driving car startup Nutonomy to begin road tests in Boston

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Self-driving taxi startup Nutonomy is expanding its autonomous vehicle trials to roads in the U.S. after it agreed to a partnership with City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Nutonomy was spun out of the MIT and is headquartered in Boston, but it initially begin trialling its ‘robo’ taxi service in Singapore in August, narrowly beating Uber — which is conducting tests in Pittsburgh — to the punch. Nutonomy’s relationship with the Singaporean government, which was part of its most recent $16 million funding round, was critical to helping it get a start in the Southeast Asia city-state, where it aims to launch a commercial service to the public by 2018.

In a statement, Nutonomy said it will begin testing Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park in the Seaport section of Boston before the end of this year. It plans to use its self-driving Renault Zoe electric vehicle which includes its software system and engineers on-board to observe and take the wheel if and when necessary. The cars won’t be tasked with collecting passengers, however, unlike Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

Nutonomy is working with Grab, Southeast Asia’s billion-dollar Uber rival, in Singapore to help it get access to more data and ferry its customers from A to B. It remains unclear whether it will forge a similar partnership with Lyft — a key Grab ally in the U.S. — in order to actually collect passengers in the U.S. For one, though, it does have the support of government officials who will help “expand the testing area to other parts of the city in the near future,” Nutonomy 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,” city mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.