By Mahenau Leghari
Next month, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai will begin testing an electric, driverless taxi in Silicon Oasis, a residential area in Dubai. Speaking at the Gitex Technology Week at Dubai’s World Trade Centre, a senior RTA officer said that the trials will last around three months, after which the RTA will decide when and where the autonomous taxis can be made available to the rest of the city.
Khaled Al Awadhi, the director of RTA’s Automated Fare Collections System Department, said, “At the moment, there is only one autonomous taxi available that will initially run on a preset, dedicated route at Dubai Silicon Oasis.” He added, “We will gather information and evaluate how we can roll-out driverless taxis in other areas of the city,” after the trial phase ends.
The autonomous taxi is a battery-powered cab with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class model, designed in partnership with Dubai Silicon Oasis and DG World for robots and artificial applications. The taxi is fitted with four sensors located at each corner of the vehicle, three cameras at the front, rear, and inside ensure a 360 view.
In order to sense nearby vehicles and pedestrians, it has two radars on the grill, and another radar on the top of the vehicle. The cameras have two functions: they serve as the eyes of the taxi and also record traffic and road conditions. The sensors scan the surroundings within a 400 meter and 360-degree radius to control the taxi and avoid a collision. They are also programmed to send a signal to the brakes of the taxi if it has to come to a stop.
Al Awadhi also explained that “a driver will be available inside the taxi during the trial stage to intervene in case the vehicle has to shift from autonomous to manual driving.” He added, “Passengers during the trial phase will be by-invitation-only and there will also be a media preview.”
Mattar Al Tayer, the RTA director general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, said that driverless taxis “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,” Tayer explained.
The CEO of Dubai Taxi Corporation, Dr. Yousef Mohammed Al Ali, said that Dubai taxis have come a long way since the first ever Mercedes taxi in 1955. “We are seeing a big transformation from petrol taxis to hybrid taxis and in the future, self-driving taxis,” he told Khaleej Times.
The driverless taxi is part of Dubai’s Smart Self-Driving Mobility Strategy, which is aimed at transforming 25% of the city’s total journeys into self-driving transit means by 2030.