NuTonomy President Invites Skeptics to Try Self-Driving Cars, Teases Future Expansion Plans

NuTonomy and its parent company Aptiv, which spun out of Delphi this week, are only getting started when it comes to their ambitions of bringing autonomous vehicles to the world.

Karl Iagnemma, president of nuTonomy. File photo.
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Karl Iagnemma, president of nuTonomy. File photo.

Tuesday marked the beginning of NuTonomy’s self-driving pilot with Lyft, which nuTonomy President Karl Iagnemma said will run during regular business hours on weekdays for the foreseeable future. He told BostInno that Lyft and nuTonomy do not have any specific targets for miles logged or rides provided. Instead, the goal is to collect more data from riding activities and receive feedback from the general public about the passenger experience. People who ride a nuTonomy car can leave feedback in Lyft’s app.

NuTonomy was acquired by Delphi, an automotive supply manufacturer headquartered in Troy, Mich., in October for a deal worth up to $450 million. The company started its Lyft pilot after finishing an internal passenger test in early December.

Lyft’s self-driving pilot is only available in the Seaport, and users can try to hail a self-driving car by using Lyft’s app to request a regular ride. If the user is matched with a self-driving car, they will be prompted to accept the ride. Iagnemma said the pilot is using nuTonomy’s five cars in Boston, though not all of them will be available at the same time.

“It’s showing to the world we can get to the market in multiple ways depending on where we operate.”

For those who are skeptical about getting into a self-driving car, Iagnemma said their concerns are valid. “It’s a new technology and it’s an experience many people haven’t gone through yet,” he said. “I would encourage people to try to come down and catch a ride.”

Every nuTonomy car in the Lyft pilot has a safety driver, in case human intervention is ever needed, and an engineer who is monitoring the car’s systems on a laptop, Iagnemma said. When it comes to the car’s autonomous system, “in many instances, the system is able to react faster than the human driver would,” including at night, because of its multiple sensors.

However, Iagnemma added, there are still some situations in which nuTonomy’s cars have difficulty navigating. That includes construction zones, which can even be confusing and chaotic for human drivers. “Those are the challenges we use to improve our technology,” he said.

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Iagnemma said Aptiv, Delphi’s autonomous technology and electric vehicle business that spun out on Tuesday, will have more announcements to share over the next month. That will include information on the next cities where Aptiv will expand operations. Aptiv is currently testing vehicles in Boston and Singapore with nuTonomy, and in Pittsburgh with Ottomatika, another autonomous vehicle startup that company acquired a few years ago.

One of NuTonomy’s next big steps is to fully integrate within Aptiv and use the parent company’s resources to accelerate its progress. While nuTonomy is currently conducting pilots with Lyft and Grab, a ride-hailing company based in Southeast Asia, the company will also have opportunities to sell its technology to automotive manufacturers.

“It’s showing to the world we can get to the market in multiple ways depending on where we operate,” Iagnemma said.

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