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Singapore may be getting the world’s first driverless taxis quite soon, if all goes to plan. NuTonomy is an MIT-born startup that has its sights on just this goal, and plans to debut a pilot programme in the eastern giant later this year.

NuTonomy spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just three years ago and has raised $3.6 million in seed funding this January. The company plans to test-run the project at One North, a major business park in Queenstown, downtown Singapore, after passing its first driving test in the country last month.

If the project succeeds, nuTonomy will be the first company in the world to operate a “level four” autonomous vehicle in an urban area commercially. Level four refers to cars that are completely autonomous; in contrast, Google is testing out level three cars that sometimes need humans to take control of the wheel.

NuTonomy is now working hard to get the right permits and approval for the pilot programme. They hope to eventually grow the taxi fleet to thousands of vehicles.

“This could make car-sharing something that is almost as convenient as having your own private car, but with the accessibility and cost of public transit,” Emilio Frazzoli, nuTonomy co-founder and chief technology officer and MIT professor of aeronautics, told MIT News.

Besides groundbreaking taxi services, nuTonomy is also working on developing self-driving software for car manufacturers ranging from Land Rover to Jaguar.

“There’s a real opportunity for companies like ours to be providers of this technology,” Karl Iagnemma, co-founder and chief executive officer, told IEEE Spectrum.