Dubai never fails to impress the world with its promising and well-studied plans. From Smart Dubai’s plan to become paperless in 2021, including the Emirate’s smart tourism initiative and WiFi for all, Dubai’s aspirations of becoming a benchmark for future smart cities are the real deal.
Now the focus turns to driverless vehicles.
A joint venture, signed on November 1st, saw Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Emaar Properties study the launch of autonomous vehicles while using smart traffic signals at crossings between Dubai Mall and the Boulevard areas.
Maitha bin Adai, CEO of the Traffic and Roads Agency, said: “The self-driving vehicles had brought new challenges and perceptions to our road infrastructure, which warrants upgrading the existing technology in an innovative manner to mark the world’s first autonomous vehicles initiative. The joint venture is a fruitful outcome of the study of autonomous vehicles plying the Dubai Mall and the Boulevard areas using, in the initial phase, smart interactive systems between these vehicles and traffic signals on some intersections, controlled by signalised traffic lights.”
The Emirate has recently launched a number of initiatives to move forward in this direction.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said it had signed in February 2017 an agreement with Tesla Inc., a world-leading manufacturer of autonomous electric vehicles, for buying 200 hybrid electric vehicles fitted with several components of autonomous driving technologies.
Tesla made in September the first delivery of 50 cars, and the new fleet includes both Model S sedans and Model X SUVs, each equipped with Tesla’s latest Autopilot software.
This move is part of the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy, aimed at transforming 25 per cent of total journeys in Dubai into autonomous journeys by 2030, according to RTA.
Driverless taxis still do not have full autonomous capabilities, said Futurism.com, a platform dedicated to scientific discoveries.
The driverless drive
Dubai-based car-booking service Careem is one of the companies that are testing electric and driverless pod vehicles as part of a future driverless ‘hail a cab’ service, the company announced last April.
It is collaborating with California-based NEXT Future Transportation, whose customers include the RTA.
France-headquartered aeronautics firm Airbus has also got into the air-taxi game, with Vahana, the flying taxi project that it plans to launch in 2020.
This model features air speeds of 230 km/h, according to Airbus A3 Head of Autonomous Systems Arne Stoschek, and can accurately avoid potential air collisions without even braking, much to future passengers’ relief.
Being in a driverless air taxi is scary, but is the road safer with a ‘robocab’?
Driverless cars may be a good solution to traffic accidents, reducing the number of fatalities as a result of human error.
According to Futurism.com, studies show that upward of 95 per cent of all traffic fatalities are the result of some form of human error.
“Totally eliminating the possibility for these errors could significantly boost road safety,” it said.
But it goes without saying that this technology poses challenges, just like any other innovation.
Technical University of Denmark says that there will be a series of challenges related to the competences that are required to use these vehicles.
“As long as the vehicle is not 100 per cent self-propelled, drivers must still be familiar with the system and its limitations—just as they must be able to take over if the situation requires it,” it said.
Taking into consideration the pros and cons of this technology, how are people reacting to it?
IEEE Spectrum, a global organization devoted to engineering science, reveals that trust in self-driving cars remains a significant obstacle for US drivers surveyed by the American Automobile Association (AAA).
It said that three out of four US drivers said that they would feel “afraid” to ride in self-driving cars and that one in five drivers said that they would actually trust a driverless vehicle to drive itself with them inside it.
Stuff Motoring, a platform for motoring news, quotes BMW’s global boss of sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, as saying that the world was still not ready to let autonomous cars make life and death decisions.