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Self-driving car hits Boston streets next week

Karl Iagnemma is the cofounder of nuTonomy, which will begin testing its self-driving car in Boston next week.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Massachusetts has given the green light to a Cambridge startup to begin testing a self-driving car in a small section of Boston.

NuTonomy Inc. will put its driverless car on the roads of South Boston’s Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park beginning Tuesday, according to chief executive Karl Iagnemma. A person must be in the car ready to take manual control as needed.

At its start, the program will be confined to the 191-acre park, which has about 3 miles of roads, during daylight hours and in good weather. But the tests can expand after hitting various milestones, according to nuTonomy’s approved application. For example, after logging 100 miles in good driving conditions, nuTonomy can then begin testing at night and in precipitation. After another 100 miles, the testing can move to other roads in Boston.


“Our early testing will focus on the easiest cases — empty roads, during favorable weather, lighting, and traffic conditions,” Iagnemma said in an e-mail on Thursday. “From there, we’ll increase the driving difficulty by testing in heavier traffic.”

NuTonomy is the first company to get the OK from the city and the state to experiment with self-driving vehicles. A pair of executive orders issued in October by Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh set standards for testing the technology, which some experts predict will transform urban transportation.

The city announced last month it would allow nuTonomy to conduct the test, and the state gave its approval last week.

NuTonomy’s software will modify an electric car from French auto company Renault. Iagnemma said the company plans to add another two vehicles to the test fleet in the first quarter of 2017.

NuTonomy is already testing its vehicles in Singapore, where it has been giving rides to the public since August.


This story has been updated to correct the day that nuTonomy will begin testing.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.