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One of Europe’s largest carmakers will test its self-driving cars in Singapore

NuTonomy's driverless car, the first to launch in Boston, takes a spin around Drydock Ave. in South Boston on Jan. 4, 2017.
Jessica Rinaldi | The Boston Globe | Getty Images
NuTonomy's driverless car, the first to launch in Boston, takes a spin around Drydock Ave. in South Boston on Jan. 4, 2017.

Groupe PSA, which owns European car brands Peugeot SA and Citroën, will team up with self-driving startup NuTonomy to test autonomous SUVs in Singapore later this year, the two companies announced today.

The partnership represents a major new player in the world of self-driving cars. After acquiring General Motors' Opel and Vauxhall brands for $1.4 billion last month, Peugeot is on track to become Europe's second biggest carmaker behind Volkswagen. And NuTonomy, a spinoff of MIT, has been testing its self-driving cars in Singapore since last year, and more recently began deploying its vehicles on public roads in Boston. In August 2016, the startup launched the world's first self-driving taxi experiment, beating Uber to the punch by a few weeks.

The terms of their strategic partnership will work like this: NuTonomy will integrate its self-driving software and technology into customized Peugeot 3008 SUVs, which recently nabbed the title of European Car of the Year for 2017. NuTonomy says it will complete the integration by the end of the summer, with on-road testing set to begin by September 2017.

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And the scope of the autonomous testing won't be constrained to just Singapore. The companies say they will consider expanding its tests to other cities around the globe. They won't say where yet, but it stands to reason that Boston and Paris, where PSA is headquartered, are probably high on the list of possibilities.

"This collaboration is a significant step towards fully autonomous vehicles, which will enable us to offer different mobility solutions to our customers," said Anne Laliron, head of Groupe PSA's Business Lab, in a statement. Karl lagnemma, CEO and co-founder of NuTonomy, added that the partnership with PSA will bring his firm closer to their goal of "deploying a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service for urban driving environments."

The announcement also signals a new addition to the growing fleet of vehicles favored by self-driving operators — and one that may look sleeker than some of its rivals. The goal of the collaboration between NuTonomy's software engineers and Peugeot's car manufacturers is "seamless integration of [autonomous vehicle] software with vehicle hardware," the companies say. This will allow the deployment of the car "at scale," most likely in the on-demand capacity. NuTonomy is already working with Southeast Asian ride-sharing company Grab in Singapore to evaluate the use of autonomous vehicles as a mobility service.