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Dubai testing the use of autonomous pods for public transportation

Dubai testing the use of autonomous pods for public transportation

The Dubai Government is trialling
the use of world’s first autonomous pods for public transportation. The project
is developed by The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), in cooperation with Next Future Transportation. It
is part of RTA’s efforts under Dubai
Future Accelerators
(DFA [1])
initiatives. The initial tests were conducted on the sidelines of the World
Government Summit (WGS).

The autonomous pods are designed to travel short and medium
distances in dedicated lanes. They can be coupled together in as little as 15
seconds or detached – depending on the riders’ destination – in five seconds.
Each pod is fitted with cameras and electromechanical technologies to carry out
the coupling and detaching processes, which can be activated while in motion.

Each pod can accommodate ten riders (six seated, four
standing) and it measures 2.87m in length, 2.24m in width and 2.82m in height,
weighing about 1,500kg. The autonomous pods have an average speed of 20km/h and they
are fitted with a battery that supports 3 hours of operation, and can be fully
charged in 6 hours. 

The autonomous pods have three protection systems to ensure
full control and avoid accidents. The main system comprises 3D cameras, and the
second one is a standby system based on ordinary cameras, and the last is
operated manually by the operator.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board
of Executive Directors of the RTA, said, “The pilot test of driverless units is
directed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President
and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the context of
transforming Dubai into the smartest city worldwide. It is also part of RTA’s
endeavours to provide autonomous transport by carrying out technological tests
under Dubai’s climatic conditions.”

“The RTA has signed an agreement with the American Next Future Inc. to develop
autonomous units named (NX1) as part of the initial phase of Dubai Future
Accelerators. The prototypes of these units are manufactured in Italy and
shipped to Dubai for trials. These pods run on a virtual pre-configured and
programmed lane and are overseen by the operational system,” Al Tayer
added. 

These trials are aligned with the Dubai Autonomous Transport
Strategy which aims to convert
25% of mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transportation by 2030

RTA
seeks to develop and introduce a range of enablers to realise the objectives of
the self-driving strategy. These include enacting legislations and rules for
self-driving transport, enhancing public adaptability to this technology,
developing the appropriate conditions and regulations for testing &
licensing of self-driving vehicles, chalking up a structure for related
insurance & liability, and addressing infrastructure requirements.  

Enablers would also include development of a framework for
cybersecurity and technology-driven communication system to ensure effective
communication & interaction between vehicles.

Recently, RTA signed a
preliminary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with HERE Technologies for a
long-term technology collaboration to map the city with high definition (HD)
technology.

RTA has been conducting trials
of autonomous vehicles for public transport
. Last year, RTA signed an
agreement with the German Company,  VOLOCOPTER, a specialist in the
manufacturing of Autonomous Air Vehicles for tests
of manned Autonomous Air Taxi
(AAT). 

[1] The DFA programme was launched in July 2016. DFA is
not a traditional accelerator teaching entrepreneurs how to write a business
plan. The aim is to accelerate the building of a relationship between companies
and government, with the final objective being companies receiving a MOU (or
other commercial agreement) to deliver a funded pilot project after the program
ends.