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Starts & Stops

Cambridge-based startup to soon test its driverless car tech

A Google self-driving car on a test drive in Mountain View, Calif., in 2014.Eric Risberg/Associated Press/File

We might be a bit closer to a world where you can summon a driverless taxi at the tap of a button.

That’s what Emilio Frazzoli and his company are hoping, anyway.

The professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology works with the Future Urban Mobility project at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), and is a leading researcher in the autonomous vehicle field .

Frazzoli is also the cofounder and chief technology officer at a Cambridge- and Singapore-based startup called nuTonomy, which seeks to develop autonomous vehicles. The startup, founded with fellow MIT researcher and chief executive officer Karl Iagnemma in 2013, has high hopes to make a fleet of shared driverless cars a reality.


They’ve made more progress in the past couple of weeks: Frazzoli said nuTonomy recently passed a “driving test” in Singapore by navigating one of its autonomous cars through a closed area with no accidents. Frazzoli said it now has permission to test the technology out in a specific district in Singapore — an opportunity given only to two other research labs, including SMART.

Frazzoli said driverless taxis and similar efforts could revolutionize how people get around in areas plagued with congestion and other transportation problems.

“I think the biggest impact of autonomous vehicles is not the increase of safety, though that’s clearly a good thing, but I think the biggest impact is really changing the way we think of personal mobility, or mobility, in general,” he said.

But nuTonomy is not the only company that’s likely to get into the driverless taxi business. Google is interested in using driverless technology in conjunction with its own ride-for-hire business, according to Bloomberg Technology .

Frazzoli said nuTonomy won’t be able to offer the taxi service commercially, but he believes the technology will force others to consider driverless cars a reality.


“The point is to show people how this works and what it can do, and the hope is that other places in Singapore and outside Singapore will pay attention to the technology,” he said.

Combining CharlieTicket values

Globe Staff Photo Illustration/File

Want to combine the remaining 15 cents on all your old CharlieTickets together on one CharlieCard? It might not be as easy to do anymore.

After years of allowing customers to transfer values from several CharlieTickets to a new CharlieCard or ticket at its CharlieCard store, the T has changed up the rules.

Now, you have to have a minimum of five cards or tickets for each request, and you can only consolidate tickets that were purchased with cash (sorry, credit card users). On top of that, you have to fill out a form and mail it to a specific address.

According to the MBTA’s spokesman, Joe Pesaturo, officials decided to make a change after people brought in too many discarded tickets and clogged up the lines at the CharlieCard store.

“Some people were bringing in dozens if not hundreds of tickets with very little value on them,” he wrote. “Wait times for customers would grow while a staff person was tied up with one individual for an extended period of time.”

That probably didn’t fly with Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, which has prided itself on its ability to drive down wait times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Pesaturo said the move has helped improve the wait times at the CharlieCard Store: The T decreased the time it took for each transaction from 5 to 3 minutes, and the average wait time has gone from 20 to 10 minutes, he said.


For more information on submitting your cards, visit www.mbta.com/consolidationform.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.