Driverless Taxi Starts Wandering the UAE’s Streets

Published January 3rd, 2019 - 08:05 GMT
The driverless cab can run at a speed of up to 35km per hour and can accommodate four people. (Shutterstock)
The driverless cab can run at a speed of up to 35km per hour and can accommodate four people. (Shutterstock)

Residents of Dubai Silicon Oasis would be among the first to spot the UAE's driverless taxi in action - as the Roads of Transport Authority (RTA) and the Dubai Police kicked off the cab's test run on Monday.

Authorities, however, clarified that the country's first autonomous taxi is not yet available to the public. It is now running at designated routes in Dubai Silicon Oasis and will be on a trial phase for three months.

The driverless cab can run at a speed of up to 35km per hour and can accommodate four people, including a professional driver who can take over the vehicle in case of an emergency.

Khaled Al Awadhi, director of the RTA's automated fare collections systems department, earlier said: "There is only one autonomous taxi available that will initially run on a preset, dedicated route at Dubai Silicon Oasis.

"After the three-month trial phase, we will gather all the information and evaluate how we can roll out the driverless taxis in other areas of the city."

During the test run, a driver will be seated inside the taxi and he is tasked to intervene in case the vehicle needs to be shifted from autonomous to manual driver.

While the public is not yet allowed to hail the cab, there will be passengers who will be invited to try the driverless ride during its trial phase, Al Awadhi earlier said. A media preview will also be set.

The RTA first revealed the design and concept of the cab back in October, during the 38th edition of Gitex Technology Week.

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, said the autonomous taxi will serve as the 'last mile solution' for public transport.

"It will contribute to the integration of mass transport systems by facilitating the movement of public transport users, specifically Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram, to reach their final destinations," Al Tayer said in a previous report.

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Then and now

Taxis in Dubai have come a long way from the first Mercedes Benz cab in May 1995. The Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) started its operations with just 81 vehicles and quickly expanded its fleet to 1,500 the following year.

"We are seeing a big transformation from petrol taxis to hybrid taxis and in the future, self-driving taxis," Dr Yousef Mohammed Al Ali, CEO of DTC, told Khaleej Times.

The ongoing trial operation of the driverless vehicle is the first of its kind in the Gulf region, the RTA said.

It falls in line with the Dubai Smart Self-Driving Mobility Strategy, which is aimed at transforming 25 per cent of Dubai's total journeys into self-driving transit means by 2030.

Features of the 'taxi of the future'

  • sensors, located at each corner of the vehicle
  • cameras for the frontal, rear, and inside view
  • radars on the front grille
  • radar on the top of the vehicle

How it works without a driver

  • Cameras serve as the 'sight' of the taxi and also record traffic and road conditions
  • Sensors scan surroundings within a 400-metre, 360-degree radius to control the vehicle and avoid collision
  • These sensors can also send a signal if the vehicle has to slowly halt or come to a full stop

Key milestones of Dubai's taxis

  • First fleet of 81 vehicles was launched on May 20, 1995
  • The first taxi is a Mercedes Benz
  • Fleet quickly grew in 1996 with 1,500 vehicles
  • High-standard operations at the Dubai International Airport began in 1997
  • A tracking system via satellite to determine the locations of all taxis
  • The system paved the way for a call centre to be established, allowing customers to book a cab through their phones
  • Female driver service was introduced for the convenience of Arab families
  • Petrol taxis are slowly being transformed to hybrid taxis
  • Driverless taxis now on trial mode

By Angel Tesorero


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