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Driverless Cars Could Improve Road Safety in the Middle East

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【Summary】UAE officials have launched several programs in the past five years that could boost the development of autonomous technology in the area. One of these arrangements is the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA), which is currently the world’s largest government-supported accelerator that focuses on next-generation technologies.

Original Michael Cheng    Nov 18, 2016 6:44 AM PT

In arid, unforgiving locations, like the Middle East, several countries are deeply focused in making driverless cars a reality. This is because, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of the most dangerous places to drive are located in the Gulf region. In the UAE, 12.7 road deaths occur per 100,000 people; with 30.4 in Oman, 24.8 in Saudi Arabia, 16.5 in Kuwait, 12 in Egypt and 13.2 in Qatar.

With hopes to curtail the rapid proliferation of this unsettling trend, Dubai officials have set a monumental goal for its autonomous efforts, claiming that one in four UAE residents should be utilizing a self-driving car within 15 years (by 2030).

How will the government meet such objectives when human-driven, fuel-dependent vehicles are the current norm worldwide?

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Campaigning for Safer Roads

UAE officials have launched several programs in the past five years that could boost the development of autonomous technology in the area. One of these arrangements is the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA), which is currently the world's largest government-supported accelerator that focuses on next-generation technologies, including self-driving vehicles, 3D printing, medical diagnostics and solar energy. On its official website, the DFA promises access to over $2 million in venture capital funding per month for qualified startups.

"Studies show that a city the size of Dubai could provide all of its trips with 90% less cars, as long as those cars were used like a self-driving taxi fleet," said Saif Al Aleeli, CEO of the DFA. "Self-driving vehicles will help make the roads safer, more efficient and more enjoyable."

From a long-term perspective, Aleeli clarified that he expects serious advancements in autonomous software and hardware in the coming years. Moreover, he foresees the technology being applied to a wide range of transportation vessels, such as ships, buses and delivery trucks.

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Ready for Disruption

UAE residents are more ready than ever to adopt self-driving vehicles. In a report released by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), researchers uncovered that over 70 percent of UAE-based respondents were open to testing fully autonomous cars, with 79 percent willing to try a vehicle with semi-driverless capabilities. The consulting firm also asserted that self-driving vessels could significantly reduce road congested in cities by up to 60 percent and harmful tailpipe emissions by up to 80 percent. For road accidents, that figure is at 90 percent. This suggests that Dubai officials are on the right track to addressing local road safety issues in the area. 

For individuals residing in UAE, the spread of driverless cars could also help reduce costly parking fees and fuel charges. When coupled with ridesharing or car-sharing programs, such vehicles would be able to participate in new earning mediums while the owner of the car is at work or resting at home.

"Ride-shared, electric robo-taxis can substantially transform and improve urban transportation and, by direct extension, livability, by providing more people with easier access to mobility, making streets safer, and freeing up space no longer needed for parking. The major players—industry, consumers, and policymakers—are excited and engaged," said Nikolaus Lang, a BCG senior partner and report co-author.

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