The Renault Zoe electric car isn't sold in the U.S., but it will make an appearance on the streets of one U.S. city very soon.

The battery-electric subcompact hatchback will serve as an autonomous-driving test bed for nuTonomy, a startup founded by researchers from MIT.

The company recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that authorizes it to test its self-driving Renault Zoe on designated public streets in Beantown.

DON'T MISS: 2017 Renault Zoe electric car: larger battery doubles range

It will initially operate in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, in Boston's Seaport section, though nuTonomy hopes to expand that testing area in the future.

During road tests, nuTonomy says its autonomous-driving software will learn how to identify signs and road markings, and also interact with pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles.

Boston is notorious for having some of the worst drivers and most confusing streets of any U.S. city, so it should serve as a thorough test of the nuTonomy prototype car's capabilities.

nuTonomy autonomous Renault Zoe in Boston

nuTonomy autonomous Renault Zoe in Boston

An engineer will ride along during each test, and will take over control of the car if needed.

In addition to the Zoe, nuTonomy uses the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car as the basis for prototype self-driving cars.

ALSO SEE: What a prototype self-driving Tesla 'sees' on public roads

Both models will operate in Singapore as part of a limited autonomous ride-sharing service announced earlier this year.

The service is currently being run on a trial basis, but nuTonomy plans to have it fully operational as a commercial concern by 2018.

In the current trial stage, the service only covers a handful of streets over 2.5 square miles, and engineers ride in all cars as a precaution.

nuTonomy autonomous Renault Zoe

nuTonomy autonomous Renault Zoe

As well as its Boston and Singapore venues, nuTonomy also tests self-driving cars in Michigan and the U.K., in the latter case with cooperation from Jaguar Land Rover.

By starting a trial autonomous ride-sharing service, nuTonomy has a significant lead over Tesla Motors, which suggested earlier this year that it plans to launch a similar service.

MORE: Tesla Network ride-sharing service details to come next year?

CEO Elon Musk discussed autonomous ride sharing in his updated "master plan" for the company, saying owners will one day be able to rent out their cars for such a service, and recall them when needed.

A disclaimer posted on the Tesla website in October relating to autonomous-driving features also mentioned "Tesla Network," which may be the brand name for Tesla's ride-sharing service.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter