Watch: Sheikh Hamdan, heads of Dubai Police and RTA ride self-driving taxi in Dubai

Driverless taxis have been plying the streets of Dubai, in Jumeirah 1, since October, following the successful digital mapping of the area

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Angel Tesorero

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Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 5:58 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Dec 2023, 9:52 PM

Self-driving taxis for the public will soon hit the road, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai himself announced, as he on Thursday shared a video of him inside an autonomous taxi going around Dubai neighbourhood.

Inside the self-driving car with Sheikh Hamdan were Lt.Gen. Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Dubai Police commander-in-chief; Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA); and a human driver from Cruise, who was only on standby and whose hands were off the steering wheel. Everyone was wearing a seatbelt.

Driverless taxis have been plying the streets of Dubai, in Jumeirah 1, since October during the trial phase, following the successful digital mapping of the area.

The autonomous taxis — operated by US-based self-driving technology company Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors (GM) — are not taking human passengers yet during the trial phase. But select individuals are allowed to take Cruise taxis by end of this year, before its full commercial operations by second half of 2024.

Driverless taxis have been deployed along the 8km stretch of Jumeirah Road between Etihad Museum and Dubai Water Canal, Khaled Al Awadhi, RTA director of Transportation Systems, Public Transport Agency, earlier told Khaleej Times. Al Awadhi said RTA and Cruise have completed the digital mapping of Jumeirah 1 area, between Etihad Museum and Dubai Water Canal. All the streets, pedestrian crossings, signages, and other road features in Dubai’s Jumeirah area have been included in a navigable digital map for driverless vehicles.

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Cruising in Jumeirah

In the Instragram video story shared by Sheikh Hamdan, the taxi is cruising along a residential area in Jumeirah at less than 30kph, before slowing down at 9kph when making a turn.

The car sees a man on a bicycle on the side of the road and avoids it. It is also seen slowing down before approaching a speed bump, and gently revs up after crossing over it.

The driverless taxi also slows down as it approaches a school zone and the monitor shows the speed limit is 25kph.

“We are launching automated self-driving taxis soon on Dubai’s road,” Sheikh Hamdan captioned his video.

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.

RTA earlier said: “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

Subcompact car

RTA and Cruise are using Chevrolet Bolt, a subcompact hatchback that is all-electric and emission-free. It 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.

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.

“The testing of Cruise AVs (autonomous vehicles) is a crucial step towards enhancing Dubai's global leadership in implementing self-driving transport. It contributes to Dubai's Strategy for Smart Self-Driving Transport aimed at converting 25 per cent of all mobility journeys in the emirate to self-driving modes by 2030,” said Al Tayer.

Passenger 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 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.

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