Motorists in UAE may need a separate licence to operate driverless cars

Sarwat Nasir/Dubai
Filed on November 28, 2019 | Last updated on November 28, 2019 at 06.06 am
dubai driving licence, dubai traffic laws, dubai fines, driverless cars in dubai

(KT file)

Under proposed draft law to regulate autonomous vehicles.

A new type of driving licence for residents to operate self-driving cars in the UAE has been proposed in a draft law to regulate autonomous vehicles (AV).

Khaleej Times has learned the details of the draft law, which specifically focuses on three pillars of using AVs: Vehicle safety requirement on the road; data and cyber security; and risk and behaviour.

The draft law is looking at adding an additional driving licence to the conventional one, which will test a completely different set of skills of a motorist as compared to the usual driver's test for regular vehicles.

"Licensing is one of the topics talked about (in the draft law). We have talked about additional licensing apart from the conventional driver's license. To own and drive a car, you have a licence which has a specific age. The case is different with AVs. These are upcoming challenges that still need to be addressed," Khalaf Khalaf, director of the specifications administration of Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma), told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Future Mobility conference on Wednesday.

When asked if the age limit for who can obtain a self-driving car licence will be reviewed, Khalaf said there is "no definitive answer yet" as all parties involved are still assessing the possibilities.


Each pillar in the draft law has several sub-categories that are discussed in detail. This includes liability in case of an accident, preventing hackers from taking over the vehicle, how the AV will be operated on the road, among others.

Liability is one of the major discussions and concerns around operating self-driving cars on the roads. Fatalities caused by AVs have already occurred, with a woman run over in Arizona in 2018 by a self-driving Uber. A year later, the authorities there said AVs were not programmed for jaywalkers.

Khalaf insisted that the draft law is thoroughly looking into the safety aspect - especially for the AVs to detect objects of any kind.

"Liability of a product moves along the value chain. If you are a manufacturer, you are liable to a certain extent. As a customer, you are liable to a certain extent if you are misusing or abusing the product," he said. "If you are fully adhering to the vehicle when it's operating, the liability rests with the manufacturer. But there's no definitive answer today."

He said the draft law will be sent to manufacturers and other stakeholders for a thorough review. The aim is to get it approved by the end of 2020 and then it'll be sent out to all car manufacturers, specifically those who produce AVs. Those interested in having their product commercially available in the UAE after understanding the new laws can apply for a certificate from Esma to launch it here.

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