Self-driving taxis to hit Dubai streets next month

RTA has yet to determine the fare for these cabs, although official hints it may be 30% higher than regular prices


Angel Tesorero

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File photo
File photo

Published: Tue 26 Sep 2023, 4:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Sep 2023, 9:52 PM

Fully-automated self-driving taxis will ply the streets of Dubai next month following the successful digital mapping of Jumeirah 1 area, a senior official from the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) confirmed on Tuesday.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the 3rd Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport, Khaled Al Awadhi, RTA director of Transportation Systems, Public Transport Agency at RTA, said a total of five driverless taxis will be deployed along the 8km stretch of Jumeirah Road between Etihad Museum and Dubai Water Canal in the first week of October.

Khaled Al Awadhi, director of Transportation Systems, Public Transport Agency at RTA
Khaled Al Awadhi, director of Transportation Systems, Public Transport Agency at RTA

The autonomous taxi — operated by US-based self-driving technology company Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors (GM) — will take no human passengers yet during the trial phase. But select individuals will be able to take Cruise taxis by end of this year, before its full commercial operations by second half of 2024.

The complete operation of driverless taxi and e-hail services will make Dubai the first city in the world to commercially operate Cruise self-driving vehicles outside the US.

“The launch of autonomous vehicles will bring a positive impact on Dubai’s transportation landscape and wellbeing. The rollout of autonomous vehicles will alleviate traffic congestion, lower the number of traffic accidents, and cut harmful emissions,” RTA said in a previous statement back in April announcing the road data collection.

Digital mapping done

Al Awadhi said RTA and Cruise have completed the digital mapping of Jumeirah 1 area, between Etihad Museum and Dubai Water Canal. Two Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EVs) deployed since July and driven by humans have recorded the streets, pedestrian crossings, signages, and other road features in Dubai’s Jumeirah area to create a navigable digital map for driverless vehicles.

Cruise Bolt
Cruise Bolt

No glitches were registered during the digital mapping. “Even people wearing abayas and hijabs were recorded to distinguish them as pedestrians on the streets,” Al Awadhi noted.

He added: “Corresponding legislation for the operation of AVs in Dubai has been passed early this year and we are working with Dubai Police to formalise the response plan, in case any (human) intervention is required (should any emergency arise during the trial phase).

Capacity and fare

Cruise taxis can accommodate up to three passengers. Al Awadhi noted RTA has yet to determine the fare for the self-driving taxis but he hinted it will be comparable to limo taxis, which are usually 30 per cent higher than regular cabs in Dubai.

The car model of the self-driving taxi is all-electric and emission-free Chevrolet Bolt. It is equipped with a suite of sensors, including LiDAR (laser sensor that uses near-infrared light to detect the shapes of objects), cameras, and radars to determine the distance of objects and people on the streets.

The RTA will add more autonomous taxis in Jumeirah area next year until the gradual deployment of 4,000 driverless cabs across Dubai by 2030, as part of its Smart Self-Driving Transport Strategy which is aimed at transforming 25 per cent of mobility journeys across the city into smart and driverless journeys by 2030.”

RTA chose Jumeirah area in the initial rollout phase because of its strategic location and historic tourist attractions. The first batch of self-driving Cruise taxis will only operate within the confines of the Jumeirah area, meaning pick up and drop off are limited in the same area. The autonomous taxis will also follow the same speed limit in the Jumeirah area, which is 70kph.

What's next?

Aside from the three-passenger Cruise taxi, also on display at the two-day Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport that concludes on Wednesday, is the shuttle-like Cruise Origin. The vehicle is designed for ridesharing service and it can accommodate up to six passengers.

Cruise Origin
Cruise Origin

According to Cruise, “the shuttle-like vehicle has no steering wheel or pedals, and is designed to travel at highway speeds. The interior is roomy, with seats (that can sit up to three passengers on each side) facing each other. Seats have personal USB ports and digital displays are located above to give travellers information about their rides."


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