NuTonomy and Lyft bringing self-driving vehicles to Boston roads before end of 2017



After agreeing to a research and development partnership earlier this year, nuTonomy and Lyft will begin offering driverless Lyft rides to the public in Boston. According to the Boston Globe, those rides are expected to begin before the end of 2017.

Rides will be provided within nuTonomy’s limited test area, around the Seaport District and Fort Point neighborhood. While a vehicle is in operation, a nuTonomy employee will be behind the wheel and prepared to take over operations if necessary, while a second employee will be in the front passenger seat monitoring operations.

Since January of this year, nuTonomy has been testing self-driving vehicles in Boston without passengers. City and state rules require the vehicles to always have a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer in the front seat.

Under nuTonomy’s agreement with the city, passengers must agree to use a self-driving vehicle when they hail a Lyft Seaport Ride for this next round of testing.

“The city is excited to move to this next step in realizing the potential of autonomous vehicles to make our streets safer, and make transportation options more accessible,” says Kris Carter, the head of Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.

More recently, over the course of three weekends this fall, nuTonomy conducted test drives with a select group of 41 users using small Renault hatchbacks equipped with nuTonomy software.

Those test drives paved the way for the broader passenger service being launched through Lyft within a matter of weeks.

“We’re giving people a chance to experience the technology,” says Karl Iagnemma, chief executive of nuTonomy Inc. “That helps us improve and develop a system people are going to want to use on a daily basis.”

According to Iagnemma, nuTonomy is interested in working with ride-hailing services, and it is also interested in developing its own ride-hailing app. During the fall tests, nuTonomy used a company-built app, but during the tests with Lyft, rides will be summoned through Lyft’s service.

NuTonomy’s plans to offer passenger services were approved back in October by city and state officials who have overseen nuTonomy’s driverless car testing. Coincidentally, that was the same month that nuTonomy was acquired by Delphi.

As the first wide-scale passenger test for an automated vehicle in Massachusetts, Boston is set to join Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Las Vegas as other cities in the United States giving the general public the opportunity to experience riding in self-driving vehicles.