• An autonomous vehicle is parked for its test drive in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

    An autonomous vehicle is parked for its test drive in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday,... Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim) (The Associated Press)

  • Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, speaks during an interview in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

    Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, speaks during an interview in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in ... Singapore starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim) (The Associated Press)

  • A "lidar" that detects obstacles using laser sensors is installed above the car plate of an autonomous vehicle during its test drive in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

    A "lidar" that detects obstacles using laser sensors is installed above the car plate of an autonomous vehicle during its test drive in Singapore Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The world’s first self-driving taxis, operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous ... vehicle software startup, will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The service will start small - six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim) (The Associated Press)

World's first self-driving taxis debut in Singapore

Markets Associated Press

The world's first self-driving taxis will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday.

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Select members of the public will be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup based in Massachusetts and Singapore.

Multiple companies have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years. But nuTonomy says it will be the first to offer rides to the public.

The taxis only operate in a 2.5-square-mile district called "one-north," and there are specified pick-up and drop-off points.

Each one has a driver in front who is prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in back who watches the car's computers.