nuTonomy to test autonomous cars on public roads in Boston


nuTonomy, a developer of state-of-the-art software for self-driving cars, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The MOU authorizes the company to begin testing its growing fleet of autonomous cars on public streets in a designated area of the city.

nuTonomy will begin testing its self-driving Renault Zoe electric vehicle (EV) before the end of the year in the Raymond L Flynn Marine Park in the Seaport section of the city. nuTonomy equips its vehicles with a state-of-the art software system, which has been integrated with high-performance sensing and computing components, to enable safe operation without a driver. The company’s sophisticated autonomous and robotics technology system grew out of research conducted in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) labs run by nuTonomy co-founders Karl Iagnemma (below) and Emilio Frazzoli. The testing in Boston will enable nuTonomy to build on the knowledge that it has gained from the public road tests and trials it has been conducting in Singapore’s One-North business district. The company plans to launch its self-driving mobility-on-demand service in Singapore in 2018.

During the Boston road tests, nuTonomy’s software system will learn local signage and road markings, while gaining a deeper understanding of pedestrian, cyclist, and driver behavior and interaction across a complex urban driving environment.

The company plans to work with government officials to expand the testing area to other parts of the city in the near future. nuTonomy will monitor and evaluate the performance of its software system throughout this testing phase, and a company engineer will ride in the vehicle to observe system performance and assume control if needed.

The MOU follows the Executive Orders issued in October by Mayor Martin J Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker that direct the development of an on-street testing process.

The City of Boston will be able to carefully monitor the effects of autonomous vehicles, and will identify how autonomous vehicles will further the safety, access, and sustainability goals of the city’s transportation plan, ‘Go Boston 2030’. By using electric vehicles, nuTonomy’s mobility-on-demand service can help reduce the number of trips taken in gasoline-powered vehicles, and decrease the carbon footprint of transportation in urban settings.

“Boston and Massachusetts are leaders in rethinking the future of transportation, and we are grateful for their partnership and support of our efforts to develop a fleet of self-driving cars to serve the public,” commented nuTonomy CEO Iagnemma.

“These tests will enable our engineers to adapt our autonomous vehicle software to the weather and traffic challenges of this unique driving environment. Testing our self-driving cars so near to nuTonomy’s home is the next step toward our ultimate goal: deployment of a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service.”

Mayor Walsh said, “Boston is ready to lead the charge on self-driving vehicles, and I am committed to ensuring autonomous vehicles will benefit residents. This is an exciting step forward in creating a safe, reliable and equitable mobility plan for Boston’s residents.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).