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Dubai in ‘Cruise’ control, two years away from robo-taxying passengers

It’s going to feel weird at the beginning to be driven by a robot and it might put some taxi drivers’ job at risk, but robo-taxis are coming to Dubai in 2023

Cruise will use its fully autonomous Origin vehicles, which it first unveiled in 2019 Cruise will scale up to at least 4,000 vehicles in Dubai by the year 2030 Dubai aims to cut transportation costs by $243 mn annually and save $405 mn in environmental costs

It’s going to feel weird at the beginning to be driven by a robot and it might put some taxi drivers’ job at risk, but robo-taxis are coming to Dubai in 2023. 

Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company backed by General Motors and Honda, will launch its first international robo-taxi service in Dubai

The company will start testing its vehicles in 2023, with plans to launch a commercial ride-hailing service soon after. 

According to the agreement signed between Cruise and the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, Cruise would be the sole partner in the emirate for self-driving vehicles until at least 2029. 

The news was announced by Dubai’s crown prince, Hamdan bin Mohammed.

The agreement marks significant expansion plans for Cruise.  

“The selection of Cruise was not taken lightly. We engaged in a comprehensive, multi-year process to choose the best possible partner,” said Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Dubai RTA Board of Executive Directors.

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Ride-hailing the ‘Origin’

Cruise will use its fully autonomous Origin vehicles, which it first unveiled in 2019, and not its Chevy Bolt electric vehicles that it currently uses as part of its test fleet in San Francisco.

The Origin is designed to be a shared vehicle, and when it goes into production, it won’t have any controls typically associated with human driving, like a steering wheel or pedals. 

Cruise will scale up to at least 4,000 vehicles in Dubai by the year 2030.

The Cruise Origin will go into production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant starting in 2022. 

Cruise recently unveiled a new set of safety protocols intended to keep people socially distant during trips and the vehicle sanitized between fares.

Details on the Origin are a bit thin still, but it will be powered by GM EV technology and will be geared toward Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy, given its lack of any driver controls.

Cruise funding

Over the last three years, the company has raised over $9.25 billion from a number of investors including SoftBank, Honda, GM, T. Rowe Price Group, and Microsoft and it is currently valued at $30 billion.

Dubai has also invited a number of urban air mobility companies, like Volocopter, to test their electric aircraft.

Autonomous driving plans

Dubai’s plan is to reduce pollution and save transportation costs through the use of autonomous vehicles. 

The deal with Cruise is part of a mission for Dubai to reduce transportation costs and convert 25% of trips in the city to self-driving transport by 2030.

Dubai aims to cut transportation costs by 900 million dirhams annually ($243 mn) and save 1.5 billion dirhams ($405 mn) in reducing environmental pollution by 12% per year, while generating 18 billion dirhams ($4.86 bn) annually in economic revenues by making the transport sector more efficient, according to Sheikh Hamdan.