Take a short walk through Singapore’s city center and you’ll cross a helical bridge modeled on the structure of DNA, pass a science museum shaped like a lotus flower, and end up in a towering grove of artificial Supertrees that pulse with light and sound. It’s no surprise, then, that this is the first city to host a fleet of autonomous taxis.
Since last April, robo-taxis have been exploring the 6 kilometers of roads that make up Singapore’s One-North technology business district, and people here have become used to hailing them through a ride-sharing app. Maybe that’s why I’m the only person who seems curious when one of the vehicles—a slightly modified Renault Zoe electric car—pulls up outside of a Starbucks. Seated inside the car are an engineer, a safety driver, and Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, the MIT spinout that’s behind the project.