Three self-driving cars will hit the roads in October—although safety officers will still sit in the front seat.
ABU DHABI PLANS to test self-driving cars on the roads this year, in a move to realize a moonshot technology dogged by myriad regulatory challenges.
It was announced on Tuesday that Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) is partnering with AI company G42’s Bayanat to trial the use of driverless cars.
The project, which will kick off this October, will start by testing three self-driving cars shuttling between hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and offices at Yas Mall. As the next stage rolls out, more than ten autonomous vehicles will ferry riders to locations across the capital. The (free) taxi-service will run through the day, from 8am to 8pm.
Although the vehicles don’t require any human guidance, a safety officer will still sit in the driving seat during the pilot scheme to interfere if any issue comes up.
While pilot projects have been planned (or launched) in other parts of the world, implementing self-driving cars has been met with safety, legal, and regulatory challenges. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for tech companies to develop the technology either, prompting companies like Uber to sell off their self-driving units.
But governments in the Middle East have been largely receptive to the technology, and that’s especially the case in the UAE. Dubai has already set an ambitious target for the next decade, as it aims for 25 percent of all car journeys to be made via driverless transport by 2030. Meanwhile, Sharjah tested a fleet of driverless shuttles last year.
Under the new partnership, Abu Dhabi’s Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) is responsible for establishing the necessary infrastructure for the use of self-driving vehicles. Meanwhile, Bayanat will be in charge of safety testing and ensuring that the AVs abide by traffic rules.
“Our partnership with DMT and ITC opens up new and exciting opportunities to transform the transport sector, improve road safety, energy consumption, traffic congestion, and revolutionizing the way people live, work, and travel,” says Bayanat CEO Hasan Al-Hosani.