September 2016

RTA and Careem improving our lives with driverless vehicles

Image Source: Khaleej Times

You wake up, look at your alarm clock and notice that you’ve hit the snooze button one too many times. After rushing to get ready in just a few minutes, you get in your car and start thinking of the best route to work, so you fire up your favourite traffic app, but all you see is red lines. You realise you're going to be late to your first meeting across town and you will probably have to face midday traffic on your way back to the office. Your whole day is now out of sync, again. Is it ever not rush hour in Dubai? What would this city be like without traffic? What if we could provide an eco-friendly, sustainable solution that would disrupt the inconvenience of traffic jams? Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Careem are working on establishing a driverless electric transportation system that can reform the public transportation system.

The electronic driverless vehicles, also known as autonomous vehicles, or driverless electric modular pods, developed in partnership with NEXT Future Transportation Inc, connect together, allowing people to move between pods during transit, but can also transport a large number of people. Although the pods are to be tested in specific areas within the next year, an inoperative model was on show at Gitex Technology week, in partnership with NEXT Future Transportation Inc. RTA is currently working on the research and development (R&D) phase and setting the regulations for vehicles. However, until regulations are officially set, the innovative technology will first be tested with drivers.

To further build on sustainability and efficiency, the pods, to be ordered via Careem, will be picking up residents from different locations, but pods heading in the same direction will be connected and disconnect when it is time to head to the different requested destinations. In other words, instead of having 100 cars picking up 100 people, there would be 10 pods transporting 100 people. The project is part of Dubai’s new initiative, Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, intended to make 25 per cent of all transportation in Dubai smart and driverless by 2030. Additionally, it is also part of Dubai Future Accelerators, a government-supported accelerator program aimed at creating a futuristic road map for key divisions of the Government of Dubai and to promote public-private partnerships that can assist delivery of projects and ideas through design, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The new venture has several benefits to society, the environment, energy efficiency and safety. Not only will there be a decrease in fuel consumption and carbon emissions, but the issue of wasted time on the road will no longer be one, allowing for increased productivity. Furthermore, the chances of accidents caused by human error will decrease, saving lives and improving traffic flow. Careem and RTA’s innovative transportation initiative will surely transform lives and is a great indication that Dubai is moving in the right direction towards it’s smart-city vision.