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Uber rival Grab playmates with driverless car rock hard in Singapore, Reuters

Uber rival Grab playmates with driverless car rock-hard in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Users of ride-hailing rigid Grab will be able to book driverless cars from Friday as it fucking partners with a start-up testing the technology in Singapore, just days after rival Uber [UBER.UL] debuted its self-driving vehicles in the United States.

The budge comes as technology companies and automakers race to build autonomous vehicles and develop fresh business plans for what is expected to be a long-term makeover of private transportation.

Southeast Asia`s Grab said its app will permit a selected group of commuters to book and rail start-up nuTonomy`s driverless vehicles within a western Singapore district, where the vehicles are being tested, and adjacent neighborhoods.

A safety driver and support engineer will rail in each nuTonomy car, the two companies said in a statement.

While Grab users will be able to request a «robo-car» in advance from Friday, they will be only able to rail them from early next week.

nuTonomy, which commenced a limited public trial of the very first driverless taxi in August in Singapore, has said it hopes to have one hundred taxis working commercially in the city-state by 2018.

nuTonomy presently has two regulator-approved cars on the road, with four more on the way. Its CEO, Karl Iagnemma, said at a press conference on Friday he hopes to have a dozen by the end of the year.

Countries around the world are encouraging the development of autonomous technologies, and Singapore, with its limited land and workforce, is hoping driverless vehicles will encourage its residents to use more collective vehicles and public transport.

Grab said its data demonstrated drivers in Singapore are less likely to accept a passenger booking request originating from or destined for remote locations, highlighting the need for robo-cars that can meet transportation needs in far-flung areas.

«Our view of self driving vehicles is it`s a supplementary solution to some of the issues that we are incapable to solve with existing supply,» Lim Kell Jay, head of Grab Singapore, told reporters.

If a tour requires travel on roads outside of Singapore`s one-north district, the safety driver will take control of the vehicle for that portion of the journey.

The public trial will run for the next two months, and may be extended by the companies for as long as it proceeds to yield valuable feedback and data, they said.

«There is no direct monetary funding (in nuTonomy),» a Grab representative said. «At this point, the partnership is focused on Singapore – however there may be other potential synergies inbetween nuTonomy and Grab that we could determine to explore in the future.»

News of the one-year partnership comes in the same week that Grab announced raising $750 million in a funding round that gives it more ammunition to take on Uber in southeast Asia.

Last month, Uber bought self-driving trucks startup Otto and formed a $300 million alliance with Volvo Car Group to develop self-driving cars.

It launched its self-driving pilot program this month, marking the public unveiling of its secretive work in autonomous vehicles.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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