NuTonomy will initially test one Renault Zoe in Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park in Boston's Seaport area. The site is 191 acres and was previously a military base. The company says the Boston test will focus on street-sign recognition, pedestrian detection, and adapting to variable weather. NuTonomy wants to expand to other areas of the city, though a spokesman wouldn't reveal future plans. An engineer will be in the vehicle during the tests.
The company signed a memorandum with city and state officials, and Boston has identified autonomous vehicles as part of its long-term transportation grid. Boston is a natural site for nuTonomy's first test on public US roads. Its autonomous technology, which uses software that works with sensors and computing systems, was born in the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the labs of company founders Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli.
"Testing our self-driving cars so near to nuTonomy's home is the next step towards our ultimate goal: deployment of a safe, efficient, fully autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service," Iagnemma said in a statement.
The program follows nuTonomy's first test that began earlier this year in Singapore in an autonomous-car incubator called one-north. It plans to launch an on-demand mobility service there in 2018. Delphi Automotive is also testing self-driving tech at that site. NuTonomy's Singapore launch came weeks before Uber launched its own pilot program in Pittsburgh, which is becoming an autonomous tech hub in the United States.
Iagnemma, nuTonomy's CEO, spoke at Autoblog's UPSHIFT event in October, where he explained research showing consumers are willing to overcome concerns about riding in an autonomous car.