Users of ride-hailing firm Grab will be able to book driverless cars from Friday as it partners with a start-up testing the technology in Singapore, just days after rival Uber debuted its self-driving vehicles in the U.S.
The move comes as technology companies and automakers race to build autonomous vehicles and develop new business plans for what is expected to be a long-term makeover of personal transportation.
Southeast Asia's Grab said its app will allow select commuters to book and ride start-up nuTonomy's driverless vehicles within a western Singapore district, where the vehicles are being tested, and adjacent neighborhoods. Up to five of the autonomous vehicles will initially be running in the trial, although that number could expand if the Singaporean government gives permission for more.
A safety driver and support engineer will ride in each nuTonomy car, the two companies said in a statement. If a trip required travel on roads outside of Singapore's one-north district, the safety driver would take control of the vehicle for that portion of the trip, they said.
The public trial will run for the next two months, and may be extended by the companies for as long as it continues to yield valuable feedback and data, Grab said.
In order to be chosen to book one of the driverless taxis, potential riders must submit a registration for that includes details such as their passport number and their employer. If chosen, their ride will be free, but they'll be asked for feedback after the journey.
The cars won't operate when it's raining, and once in the vehicle, test-riders won't be permitted to take pictures or video.