NuTonomy Self-Driving Cars Coming to Boston

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NuTonomy launched a self-driving car program in Singapore this year and now is coming stateside to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. The company will start testing cars in Boston by the end of December. It’s the first time nuTonomy will test self-driving cars in the United States.

Testing will start small, with a single Renault Zoe driving around Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park in the seaport area. This is a 191-acre section of the city that was once a military base. Testing in Singapore was similarly limited to a single region of that city called one-north. They expect to have an on-demand service live in Singapore by 2018.

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NuTonomy will focus on the basic things self-driving cars need to do right if they’re going to find their way to approval on all public streets. This includes street-sign recognition, pedestrian detection, and handling challenging weather conditions. In a city like Boston, weather could be sun, rain, or blinding snow, so this Renault Zoe is in for a challenge.

Depending on how testing progresses, nuTonomy wants to expand into other areas of the city, but they haven’t specified how long that could take or where that additional testing might take place. In the meantime, they’re limited to only the park with an engineer inside the car during testing.

The project is a part of Boston’s efforts to incorporate self-driving cars into their transportation plans. Anyone who has had the pleasure of trying to drive through the city during rush hour knows that it has serious congestion issues. Even the notorious Big Dig with its new tunnels and bridges and new traffic patterns didn’t solve the problem.

NuTonomy’s cars also call Boston home. No, the cars weren’t built in the city, but the technology that makes them work autonomously is another story. Company founders Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli developed the software for nuTonomy’s cars in their labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s a homecoming of sorts to finally get these cars on the streets of Boston.

Other cities in the US already have self-driving cars on their roads in the early stages of testing. You can hail a ride in an autonomous Uber on the streets of Pittsburgh, but again it’s only in select areas of the city and is only available to a small group of riders.

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NuTonomy hasn’t said when it plans to make its cars available to the public in Boston, but with any luck, testing will go well and rush hour will one day be a little less stressful for everyone.