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Here’s one place in the world you can already hail a driverless taxi

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Although Uber may soon be the first company to launch a self-driving car service in the United States, it won't be the first in the world. That honor went Thursday to nuTonomy, a Massachusetts-based company that has now officially rolled out what many analysts say will transform the future of transportation and the economy.

NuTonomy's six self-driving cars are being tested in Singapore's one-north business district, a roughly 500-acre hub the city-state built for science and technology companies. Using nuTonomy's app, members of the public will be able to request a free ride in a specially modified electric vehicle manufactured by Renault or Mitsubishi.

Like Uber, nuTonomy said it will have a human accompanying the rider to make sure everything works smoothly. And the data it gathers during the tests will go toward launching a Singapore-wide driverless taxi service in 2018.

Why Uber is going to test its new self-driving cars in Pittsburgh

NuTonomy — which raised $16 million in funding earlier this year — has been testing its self-driving cars without passengers since April. That's thanks in part to aggressive policies from the Singapore government supporting the technology. NuTonomy isn't the only beneficiary of these policies; residents in the Jurong Lake district were allowed to start testing driverless golf carts in a project backed by MIT and the National University of Singapore in 2014. The year before, Nanyang Technological University and several others launched a similar test.

But nuTonomy's pilot project appears to be one of the first to involve actual motor vehicles. With that experience under its belt, the company may be able to quickly transfer what it learns to other places where it's currently conducting studies, such as London and Michigan.