Dubai: Driverless taxis on city roads in 2023; all you need to know about booking a ride

Dubai will also be one of the first cities to issue rules for commercial use of autonomous vehicles in 2022.


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 12:17 PM

Last updated: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 10:33 PM

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) signed a deal with US firm Cruise to supply driverless vehicles which will operate as taxis on Dubai’s roads, not in the distant future.

The UAE is ranked by global consultancy KPMG among the top countries in the world when it comes to readiness to accommodate driverless vehicles. Since this advanced mode of transport is relatively new in the world and will hit Dubai’s roads next year, here is all the UAE residents need to know about the driverless vehicle and the technology – an experience unlike anything today.

When will driverless vehicle trials begin in Dubai?

Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources
Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources

According to RTA, trials and preparations of digital maps needed for autonomous vehicles will begin by the end of 2022. Dubai will also be one of the first cities globally to issue regulations for the commercial use of autonomous vehicles in 2022.

When will Dubai residents be able to use driverless taxis?

RTA plans to roll out driverless taxis in the Emirate in 2023 and the numbers will reach 4,000 by 2030. Dubai will be the first city outside the USA to operate such vehicles. The Authority will deploy autonomous vehicles to offer taxi and e-Hail services in Dubai.

Why is Dubai rolling out autonomous vehicles?

Autonomous vehicles are electric and environmentally friendly and can serve considerable numbers of customers, particularly senior citizens, residents, and people of determination. Autonomous vehicles boost road traffic safety levels as human errors are responsible for more than 90 per cent of road accidents. Cruise’s autonomous cars generate zero emissions, tend to eliminate human driver error with zero car crashes, with no congestion and no hassle for parking.

How will Cruise operate in Dubai?

Cruise autonomous vehicle in Seattle. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources
Cruise autonomous vehicle in Seattle. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources

Cruise will establish a new company in Dubai that will be fully responsible for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the autonomous fleet.

When and where was Cruise founded?

Cruise was founded in San Francisco, USA, in September 2013 by Kyle Vogt to fulfil his childhood dream of making self-driving cars. In 2016, US auto manufacturing giant General Motors took over Cruise. In 2021, Microsoft, GM, Honda, Walmart and institutional investors invested $2.75 billion in new equity, bringing Cruise’s valuation to over $30 billion.

When and where was Cruise's first driverless ride?

Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources
Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources

Cruise partnered with Walmart on a self-driving delivery pilot which took its first driverless vehicle on the streets of San Francisco in 2020. In April 2020, Walmart launched Express Delivery and scaled it to more than 2,800 stores by November 2020, reaching more than 65 per cent of American households using Cruise’s all-electric autonomous vehicles.

How can passengers hail a driverless ride in Dubai?

Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources
Cruise autonomous vehicle in San Fransisco. Photo: Cruise Company Media resources

Customers will use a mobile app to request a ride, just like they use ride-sharing apps of Uber and Careem. The only difference is that customers will control the experience — their customised climate control and radio station settings will be sent to the vehicle ahead of when they access their ride.

Inside the vehicle, passengers will find touch screen tablets to access real-time status information about the ride. The tablets will also remind passengers to close all doors and fasten their seat belts. Passengers will be able to communicate with remote support personnel with the press of a button. Customers will be able to end the ride by pressing a button when they want it.

There’s another button for passengers to press if they want to end a ride because of an emergency. Support personnel can also contact vehicle passengers if he/she forgets an item in the vehicle at the end of a ride. If passengers forgot to close the doors, the vehicle can close themselves and move on to the next customer. The vehicles will accommodate hearing and visually impaired individuals.

How do autonomous vehicles work?

This new mode of transport has become feasible with the introduction of 5G technology that has enabled the devices and machines to communicate with each other and learn from their experiences.

Autonomous cars contribute to a shared knowledge base so that each vehicle can learn from the collective experiences of the entire fleet. For example, if one car sees that a road is closed, the others automatically avoid it. Or if there’s a dangerous road hazard, a single car can notify thousands of others to avoid a potentially unsafe situation.

Cruise cars are equipped with five high-precision laser sensors that detect fixed and moving objects, 16 cameras and 21 radars to perform three elements – Perception, Planning and Controls for safe autonomous driving.

In Perception, it “sees” by using sensors to monitor its environment. The sensors feed information to the computer that combines the sensor data with high-definition map data to localise the vehicle. It builds a three-dimensional model of the world that keeps track of important objects. Perception also predicts the objects’ future motion — pedestrians and trucks have different predicted movements.

Perception identifies other environmental uncertainties like where it must look for moving objects. If its view is blocked, Perception will flag that area as unknown. If an object is hard to see because of rain or fog, or because it is hidden behind a truck, the computer brain knows that and adjusts its decision-making and performance accordingly.

The second element - Planning – accounts for road rules and plans routes for the car to travel from trip origin to destination. It chooses routes to optimise efficiency and safety and to route the car only on streets within its capabilities. Planning identifies multiple paths per second, chooses the best one to meet changing road conditions.

The third element – Controls – implements the final path from planning, giving the self-driving system full vehicle manoeuvrability complete with stability, traction and anti-lock brake systems fully active. When the vehicle detects rapid or abnormal changes in weather conditions, it will adjust how it operates to accommodate the weather and how other road users are behaving, such as when traffic slows during heavy rain. At all times, the fleet will communicate with a centralized fleet operations centre.

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