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Massachusetts-based nuTonomy, an automotive software startup funded in part by Bill Ford’s Fontinalis Partners, claimed Thursday to be the first to offer an autonomous taxi service in Singapore.

The company is offering free rides on a trial basis to select residents of the island nation. Customers can book a ride through their smartphone, and be picked up in either a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The vehicles will be able to drive themselves along several pre-determined routes, but nuTonomy said an engineer will sit in the drivers seat to take over in case of an emergency.

A nuTonomy spokesman said Thursday it’s starting out with two cars, but that fleet will soon grow to six. The trial is part of nuTonomy’s plans, announced earlier this year, to deploy a widely available commercial service there in 2018. It has been testing autonomous cars in Singapore since April.

“NuTonomy’s first-in-the-world public trial is a direct reflection of the level of maturity that we have achieved with our AV software system,” CEO and co-founder Karl Iagnemma said. “The trial represents an extraordinary opportunity to collect feedback from riders in a real-world setting, and this feedback will give nuTonomy a unique advantage as we work toward deployment of a self-driving vehicle fleet in 2018.”

While nuTonomy may be the first, it will soon have competition.

Delphi Automotive PLC earlier this month announced plans for a similar autonomous taxi service in Singapore. The U.K.-based supplier currently has one Audi in Singapore testing the routes, but has not yet offered rides to the public, a Delphi spokesman said Thursday. The fleet will soon grow to six vehicles, and will eventually feature cars without drivers, steering wheels or pedals.

Both Delphi and nuTonomy are operating their self-driving fleets in a business park called One-North.

NuTonomy has tested several of its retrofitted Mitsubishi iMiev electric cars at Ann Arbor’s MCity, and the company said it currently operates autonomous cars in Michigan and the United Kingdom.

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

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