Driverless taxis in Dubai: 2 special vehicles to chart digital maps for autonomous vehicles

The process is a prelude for the launch of the actual driverless taxi and e-hail services by 2023


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Published: Sun 24 Jul 2022, 12:42 PM

Last updated: Sun 24 Jul 2022, 4:38 PM

Dubai is now one step closer to operating driverless taxis. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and General Motors-backed Cruise will start the operation of two Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EVs) to prepare digital maps for self-driving vehicles.

The process is a prelude for the launch of the actual driverless taxi and e-hail services by 2023, making Dubai the first city in the world to commercially operate Cruise self-driving vehicles outside the US.

The two Chevrolet Bolt EVs will be initially deployed on Jumeirah streets and driven by “specialist drivers”. Cruise’s technology uses a high-resolution map of the physical environment, which is created using specialised mapping vehicles equipped with a suite of sensors including LiDAR, camera, and others. They are driven throughout the city to collect data, which is then used to create and maintain a navigable map for autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Cruise, General Motors’ majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, believes that AVs can help lead to a “safe, less congested future for all”, delivering “enormous benefits” for society in the form of increased safety and access to transportation.

4,000 vehicles

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, said: “Preparing digital maps is an essential step in the process of operating self-driving Cruise Origin vehicles, which will be deployed in limited numbers next year to offer taxi and e-hail services. We have plans to increase the number of deployed vehicles gradually to reach up to 4,000 vehicles by 2030.

“This initiative enhances Dubai’s pioneering role in self-driving transport. It is an important step towards realising the Dubai Smart Self-Driving Transport Strategy aimed to transform 25 per cent of total mobility journeys in the emirate into those on various self-driving transport means by 2030.”

The driverless vehicles will help integrate transport systems by easing the mobility of public transport users and helping them reach their final destinations.

Traffic safety

Autonomous vehicles will help ease city congestion, and boosting road traffic safety levels, Al Tayer added.

“Human errors are responsible for more than 90 per cent of accidents. The autonomous vehicles are environmentally-friendly electric vehicles, and can serve considerable numbers of customers, particularly senior citizens and residents, in addition to people of determination,” added Al Tayer.

In April 2021, the RTA signed an agreement with Cruise to operate autonomous vehicles.

The agreement is the first of its kind worldwide between a government entity and autonomous vehicle company.

The selection of Cruise as the exclusive provider of autonomous vehicles came after a “comprehensive, multi-year process to choose the best possible partner”.

“Cruise’s technology, resources, purpose-built vehicles, automaker partnerships, and approach to the safe testing and deployment strategy give them the ability to launch safely and faster than any other company,” the RTA added.


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