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WATCH: Dubai revs towards a self-driving future

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 26, 2016 | Last updated on April 26, 2016 at 11.32 am

(Image via Twitter)

A 10-seater driverless vehicle ran its first trial run at UITP MENA Transport Congress

Imagine a future, where you spend 25-30 minutes travelling to work in your car. However, you spend the travel time responding to important emails and Skyping with you colleagues on the tasks for the day. With autonomous vehicles, this future is not wishful thinking, but a possibility by 2030.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched on Monday an ambitious strategy for smart self-driving transport as part of Dubai's strategy to become the smartest city in the world.

Driverless cars of 2016

In what can be called a step forward in this endeavour, Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, test drove Dubai's first driverless car, which has the capacity to carry 10-12 passengers at the first day of the second edition of the UITP MENA Transport and Exhibiton Congress 2016.

Manufactured by Easy Mile/ Omnix Company, the driverless car was inaugurated by the Crown Prince on Monday at the Dubai World Trade Centre Exhibition Halls as it drove a few 100 metres. The vehicle is designed to travel short distances on pre-programmed routes and under various environments, making it capable the UAE's harsh weather conditions.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Roads and Transport Authority, confirmed that the adoption of Shaikh Mohammed's strategy to move towards a self-driving future by 2030 is a very important step in Dubai's future. Al Tayer said that smart vehicles powered by electricity will significantly contribute to raising the level of traffic safety and reducing carbon emissions.

"It contributes towards the rationalisation of fuel consumption, and contributes to the use of smart vehicles in improving smart mobility hub, which in turn contributes to transforming Dubai into a smart city," he said. Al Tayer pointed out that a competent team or commission has been formed in the RTA to examine the use of smart vehicles and to draw out an action plan to keep up with the latest developments in this field. "The team will also determine the specifications and standards required for these vehicles as well as infrastructure and safety legislation necessary," added Al Tayer.

He added: "The commission is working together with a number of global manufacturers of smart vehicles to check the technical and planning alternatives required to conduct live trials for the use of smart driving technology in Dubai."

Trial period

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the event, Ahmad Hashem Behroozian, CEO of RTA's Licensing Agency, said that the future is definitely autonomous cars. "Driverless cars are coming. It is just a matter of time," said Behroozian. Over the next three days of UITP, the car will be on display at the Dubai World Trade Centre. He added that as of now, the car can be driven for three hours and requires charge for two hours.

Behroozian stated that now the vehicle cannot be driven on concrete roads and can be driven on short distances. "The maximum speed the car can go in is 20kmph and is being driven only on interlocked platforms for safety reasons," he added. The car is 4x4 metres in size and according to Behroozian, the biggest challenge the RTA faces while testing the car is air conditioning. "Given the UAE weather conditions, there is a lot of pressure for the car battery to keep cool, which is the reason why the vehicle can drive for only three hours," he said.

The vehicle can carry up to 10-12 passengers and has a sensory technology that can detect approaching vehicles up to 40 metres. "The vehicle can slow down when it senses another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian approaching. and in case the vehicle comes two metres close, the smart car can completely stop to avoid collision," added Behroozian.

He explained that the RTA along with the Government of Dubai is working on trying the autonomous vehicle provided to them by Easy Mile/ Omnix Company, and exposing it to the harsh UAE weather conditions. "Over the next three months, the car will be displayed and tried out in different areas across the emirate to check how the vehicle will perform. After three months we will decide to invest in the technology," he added. He also stated that the technology is not as complex as Google cars or other complex self-driving technology.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

author

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88


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