Electric cars map out Dubai roads to pave way for driverless taxis

Five Chevrolet Bolts have been deployed to collect data on traffic signals, signage and drivers' behaviour to help autonomous vehicles safely navigate roads

Five Chevrolet Bolt vehicles were deployed in Jumeirah 1 to test technology and gather data on traffic signals, signage and drivers' behaviour. Photo: RTA
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A fleet of five electrical cars have mapped out the roads of Dubai to help drive forward ambitious plans for the roll-out of autonomous public transport in the emirate later this year.

The Chevrolet Bolt vehicles were deployed in the Jumeirah 1 to test technology and gather data on traffic signals, signage and drivers' behaviour.

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority has entered into a public-private partnership with US company Cruise to oversee the introduction of self-driving taxis.

Cruise’s technology uses a high-resolution map of the physical environment, which is created using mapping vehicles equipped with sensors including Lidar (Light detection and ranging) and cameras.

"RTA and Cruise, a self-driving technology company, initiated data collection and testing technology for Dubai’s traffic signals, signage, and drivers’ behaviour among other attributes using five Chevy Bolt-based autonomous vehicles in Jumeirah 1 area.

Boosting self-driving ambitions

"This step is part of RTA's strategy aimed at bolstering Dubai's global leadership in self-driving transport and fostering the emirate's aspirations of becoming the world's smartest city," said the RTA in a message on social media, accompanied by a video showing the five cars touring the streets of Dubai.

"Such an endeavour, necessitating investment in smart mobility and the application of advanced technologies, aligns with RTA's commitment to enhance the well-being and safety of citizens, residents and visitors."

The vehicles, equipped with sensors and cameras, were driven by specialist drivers in order to collect data, which is then used to create and maintain a navigable map for autonomous vehicles.

The transport authority previously heralded the deal with a Cruise as a major step in its goal to integrate self-driving transport on to the emirate's road network.

"The agreement, which is the first of its kind worldwide between a government entity and a leading company in the field of autonomous vehicles, is a major step towards realising Dubai’s Self-Driving Transport Strategy," said the RTA on Twitter in July.

Ten automated taxis are expected to begin to carry passengers in late 2023.

The launch of driverless taxis is part of a long-term vision to make 25 per cent of total trips autonomous across various modes of transport by 2030.

In March last year, the RTA announced plans to begin the testing of driverless taxis as part of the partnership with Cruise, the majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors, which would initially have 10 vehicles in operation.

Dubai introduces its first driverless taxis

Two Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles have joined emirate's public transport fleet under a partnership with US firm Cruise.

Cruise agreed to launch its first international robotaxi service outside the US in Dubai, in a deal announced by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, on Twitter in April 2021.

“Dubai will be the first outside America to operate self-driving Cruise vehicles, in fulfilment of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision that Dubai is always in first place and the best city to live and work,” Sheikh Hamdan said at the time.

“Our goal is to convert 25 per cent of the total ... trips in Dubai to self-driving trips through various means of transport by 2030.”

The RTA said it would complete rigorous testing before that launch to ensure the taxis are prepared for the hectic driving styles of some motorists in the UAE.

It is hoped wider adoption of autonomous vehicles will greatly reduce road accidents.

By 2030, it is expected that 4,000 driverless taxis will be in operation in Dubai.

Updated: April 05, 2023, 3:29 PM