4 Ways the UAE is revolutionizing autonomous transport

Editor: Neil Halligan, Online Editor at Arabian Business

From driverless cars and buses to Hyperloop commuter solutions, the current push towards autonomous transport is reminiscent of the Space Race in the Fifties and Sixties: it’s going to happen, but who’s going to get there first?

While all major car manufacturers have autonomous vehicles in the pipeline and extensive testing of public transport solutions is underway in many of the major cities across Europe, America and Asia, here’s how the UAE’s making a very strong case for itself.

  1. A clear vision

Last year saw the launch of the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, which aims to transform 25% of the total transportation in Dubai to autonomous methods by 2030, saving AED 22 billion annually. Dubai's vision incorporates all mass transit modes including trains, buses, boat and taxis, as well as private vehicles, and the city’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) commenced field testing in Downtown Dubai with a commuter shuttle vehicle, the EZ10, in August 2016.

At the strategy’s launch, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: “Dubai is leading the cities of the world by taking a big leap in the adoption of artificial intelligence to serve humanity and establish a global model of the city of the future as we aim to become the world’s largest laboratory for technology and research and development (R&D). ...Our goal is to make the UAE a global source of the future for various sectors, including smart cities, clean energy, autonomous transportation, sustainable infrastructure and legislation for the future.”

  1. Driverless Buses & Lanes

The RTA is currently developing plans to test driverless buses in dedicated lanes and it’s even anticipated that self-driving, flying cars are set to be showcased at Expo 2020 in the Emirate. Indeed, the first test runs of an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) capable of carrying a human, the Ehang 184, have taken place in the skies over Dubai and the RTA is keen to launch passenger transit operations soon.

  1. The Hyperloop

The city’s RTA is also working with Hyperloop One to develop self-driving cars with Hyperloop technology, enabling individuals to commute for limited distances within the city in small self-driving vehicles. The ultimate aim is to then board these last-mile vehicles onto a high-speed Hyperloop train to travel between cities and it’s been suggested that the travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi could be reduced to twelve minutes. Co-founder of Hyperloop One, Josh Giegel, summed up the UAE’s vision: “…the whole country is acting like a start-up. It’s as close to terraforming a planet as you can see here. And they have a deep belief that technology can make the world better.”

  1. The ‘driverless’ flying taxi

 Some still say the future of autonomous transport is up in the air, well here in the UAE, we believe that too. Not with regards to plans and expectations, but quite literally. Earlier this summer, it was announced that the flying taxi’s first trial operation will be phased in the last quarter of 2017. It’s reportedly able to carry two passengers, taking them across Dubai’s magnificent skylines (and over the traffic).