The Dubai ride-sharing app Careem is teaming up with a US company to launch the region’s first driverless pods for public transit. The partners hope to begin testing later this year.
Careem and the US start-up Next Future Transportation are now working to raise funds for the project. The target amount for their funding push was not disclosed.
Mudassir Sheikha, Careem’s co-founder and managing director, said the project could meet transportation needs in the region in an environmentally friendly way. “We are acutely aware of the ground realities of intracity and intercity transport,” he said. “Next [Future’s technology] offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit.”
The customised system would allow users to order pick-up from precise locations, such as a home address, and grab other passengers in the nearby area. Pods can drive solo or attach to other pods on the road so that passengers can transfer on the fly, without stopping.
Next Future Transportation’s founder and chief executive, Emmanuele Spera, said that as the firm continues to roll out its autonomous pods, Careem was a “partner that would provide operational depth and scale”.
He said: “We look forward to continuing our journey to bring advanced transportation technologies and practices to the region.”
Dubai has already been looking into such technology with a 10-seater driverless vehicle tested in April. That same month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said that by 2030 a quarter of all journeys in the emirate would be made by driverless cars.
The plan by Careem and Next Future aims to offer a customised option. While their prototype is expected to roll out before year’s end, an operational roll-out with a limited size fleet is not expected for another three or four years.
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