Smart roads for the UAE's future

The benefits of harnessing technology to enhance road networks in the country are countless

Commuters in the UAE. Satish Kumar / The National
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Nobody likes being stuck in traffic. An underrated, if quotidian, pleasure of urban life, particularly in cities reliant on cars, is to not be caught in a snarl. Time is saved, efficiency is achieved and anywhere in the world, a smooth ride is better altogether for stress levels of people stuck in a car, driving or not – not least of all for ambulance drivers and those unfortunately in them. As any urban database will attest, the benefits of roads without congestion add up significantly.

In the UAE, a smooth network of highways linking each of the seven emirates is one of the country's most tangible assets, as are each emirate's internal roads. Given this advantage, and with an eye to the future, smart infrastructure projects, such as those that monitor traffic with AI, streamline the flow of traffic at intersections with more sensors and go a long way to add to already existing first-rate road networks. A much-anticipated railway line is in the works, too, with Etihad Rail connecting 11 of the UAE's cities.

In the UAE, a smooth network of highways linking each of the seven emirates is one of the country's most tangible assets

In Dubai, projects such as the smart traffic management system keep pace with a broader social reality driven by numbers – more cars on the road due to more people being drawn to life in the UAE and moving to its cities.

Catering to the future requirements of the country, the second phase of the Intelligent Transports Systems project will begin in a few months. Motorists will soon discern the ease of driving down those roads. The first phase in Dubai already improved road safety by adding 120 traffic cameras and constructing a 660km long fibre-optic network, which boosted connectivity and communication systems. Significant work has also been done to make the roads safer. Data shows that this reduced road accidents and shortened the time it takes to respond to emergencies. Soon, the second phase will mark an extensive change in Dubai's road map, by extending the length of roads covered, from 480 kilometres to more than 700km, a feat of engineering and progressive city planning.

This is only to be expected of a young country never shy of planning for the future – as evident in Dubai's plan to put 4,000 driverless taxis on the streets by 2030. One in 20 of the emirate's taxis will already be driverless by the end of next year. The combination of technology and infrastructure will increase the quality of life of countless commuters in the UAE. Last year, in Dubai nearly 461 million riders used public and shared transport and taxis.

Abu Dhabi is moving ahead with drone delivery trial programmes, and next month we're likely to see the autonomous taxi minibus used for the first time during the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, serving as the base for all such innovations is the fact that good roads are at the core of what keeps a city ticking. In this regard, the UAE's advantages continue to be immeasurable.

Published: October 26, 2022, 2:00 AM