The ruler of UAE city/state Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is known to be quite liberal and forward, has announced that 25% of all car trips in Dubai will be driverless by 2030. The Dubai Sheikh can be seen driving himself around the City/state in his white Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV, license plate No. 1. It is rare for a royal in the region to drive himself as the preference is to be chauffeur-driven.
So after being known as the place where stand the tallest building in the world, Dubai could also be known as the place where cars run without drivers.
The Sheikh was quoted as saying by a state-run news agency that it would cut down on costs and traffic crashes. He said the project would be a joint venture by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority and the Dubai Future Foundation. There are over 1.5 million vehicles registered in Dubai.
Smart-car technology is already present in some of the top-end luxury cars and is advancing at a pace to make it a practical reality to have driverless cars plying on roads soon. While Google has already tested the waters with its driverless car technology, traditional automakers like Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen are gradually introducing automated features until their cars can be completely driver-free.
However, the future of the drivers of taxi companies, primarily foreign labour workforce including a large number of Indians, remains uncertain. As Dubai revs towards a driverless future, questions remain on the employment of thousands of cab drivers in the city/state.
The Roads and Transport Authority has contacted a number of driverless vehicle sellers and “plans to conduct live test-runs for these vehicles in Dubai.”
A deal has been signed with Toulouse, France-based driverless vehicle manufacturer EasyMile to conduct tests on their box-shaped EZ10, which carries up to 10 passengers. The driverless car was inaugurated by the Crown Prince on Monday at the Dubai World Trade Centre Exhibition Halls as it drove a few 100 metres. The vehicle is designed to travel short distances on pre-programmed routes and under various environments.
Dubai is already home to the driverless Metro system which carried 178 million riders in 2015.