UAE: 6 times driverless taxis, buses have transported residents and tourists

Here, we chronicle the country’s successes in operating or testing autonomous vehicles


Sahim Salim

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Published: Mon 25 Jul 2022, 12:18 PM

Last updated: Mon 25 Jul 2022, 2:16 PM

Driverless vehicles vrooming on roads is not a theoretical concept, at least in the UAE. Over the past few years, the country has successfully rolled out or tested multiple projects that have seen passengers transported safely in vehicles with no one in the driving seat.

And now, Dubai is just months away from launching its first driverless taxi and e-hail services. By 2023, Dubai will be the first city in the world to commercially operate Cruise self-driving vehicles outside the US. Two special Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EVs) are studying Dubai streets to create digital maps for the self-driving cabs.

The autonomous vehicle buzz has been around in the country for nearly a decade. Here, we chronicle the country’s successes in operating or testing autonomous vehicles.

1. September 2016: Zoom down Downtown Dubai

This is the first project in the region that demonstrated the safe use of driverless vehicles.

EZ10, a driverless 10-seater car, shuttled along the Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard in Downtown Dubai during its trial run. With a top speed of up to 40kmph, the vehicle moved over a 700-metre track, passing through Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Dubai Opera, Souk Al Bahar and various hotels.

2. December 2018: Did you spot Dubai’s driverless taxi?

Residents may have spotted the UAE's driverless taxi in action at Dubai Silicon Oasis. Though the cab was not made available to the public, it ran on designated routes during a three-month trial phase.

The driverless cab could run at a top speed of up to 35kmph and accommodate four people, including a driver who could take over the vehicle in case of an emergency.

3. March 2020: A ride into the future at Expo 2020

Expo 2020 Dubai was a hotbed for technological innovations during its six-month run. But long before the event began, the site was the test zone for a driverless vehicle.

The vehicle was used to transport individuals on a dedicated path from the main entrance to staff offices.

Powered by electricity, the vehicle could operate for up to 16 hours and accommodate 15 riders. It had a top speed of 25kmph and was designed to travel in closed and internal public roads.

4. November 2021: Hundreds transported in cabs without cabbies

Phase 1 of a pilot run of driverless taxi services on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island saw over 16,000km covered and more than 2,700 passenger bookings. Txai, the region’s first driverless taxi service, is equipped with hi-tech navigating tools and saw passengers transported between nine stops.

The cabs had cameras to help calculate data on the road conditions, traffic, distance with objects, etc. It used sensors like laser point cloud (distance), microwave motion (long distance) and visible light sensor (image recognition to distinguish different things on the road).

5. November 2021: Region’s first driverless bus launched

Royals and ministers were onboard the region’s first driverless bus in Ajman. Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, director of Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, and Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, were on the bus on its inaugural run at Ajman Corniche.

Powered by sensors and 14 cameras, the bus can detect pedestrian crossings and traffic signals from a distance of 20 metres. The vehicle can accommodate 15 passengers and do a 3km run.

6. February 2022: A journey into a history lesson

A ride in an autonomous vehicle at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (Dewa) Innovation Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is a drive back in history. The driverless ride takes visitors through Dubai’s 71-year journey to powering homes.

The vehicle has a maximum speed of 25kmph and can carry up to 15 people. It's equipped with GPS-linked sensors and cameras that help it detect obstacles and prevent accidents.

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