UAE Cabinet approves plan to test self-driving vehicles

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, led meeting that also amended conditions to grant residency to retired foreigners

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The UAE has approved a temporary licence to test self-driving vehicles on the country's roads, after the plan was authorised by the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, said a request submitted by the Ministry of Interior to start testing autonomous vehicles in the UAE was granted at a Cabinet meeting held at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The ministry will submit a report to the Cabinet for permanent approval in the future, if it adopts the technology in co-ordination with relevant authorities, Sheikh Mohammed said.

The UAE will be the first country in the Middle East and the second globally to test self-driving cars on its streets
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid

"The UAE will be the first country in the Middle East and the second globally to test self-driving cars on its streets," Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.

"Our goal is for this type of vehicle to be safer, more secure and more reliable. We are co-ordinating with the office of Artificial Intelligence and awaiting for the Ministry of Interior's report about the tests’ results in order to take the appropriate decision."

The testing process will be carried out through the RegLab, an initiative by the General Secretariat of the Cabinet that provides a safe test environment for legislation that will govern the use and application of future technology.

The UAE plans to make 25 per cent of transport autonomous by 2030, a move that began in 2016.

In 2019, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, issued a directive to regulate the testing of self-driving vehicles in the emirate.

The Dubai Executive Council resolution was part of the first phase of a legislative framework to ensure the vehicles are safe.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in the emirate will also be responsible for providing licences to operators and making sure they comply with regulations.

The authority announced in August that one in 20 taxis in Dubai would be driverless by 2023.

A fleet of driverless shuttles was tested in Sharjah last year.

The eco-friendly vehicles, operated by UAE smart transport company Ion, were put through their paces in the sprawling University City of Sharjah education district.

In March, transport chiefs in Abu Dhabi announced plans to introduce driverless taxis in the emirate this year.

In the first phase of the initiative, self-driving vehicles will provide transport services free of charge from hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and offices at Yas Mall.

Residency for retired foreigners

The Cabinet approved amending requirements for granting residency to retired foreigners.

The UAE approved plans in 2018 for residents aged 55 or over to secure a five-year retirement visa, if they met certain requirements.

Under the new conditions approved by the Cabinet, non-citizens with at least one property worth Dh1 million ($272,300), or a bank deposit of no less than Dh1m, or an active annual income of at least Dh180,000, are eligible to apply for the visa.

"Today, we also approved the conditions for granting residency to retired foreigners. Retirees can continue their stay with us in the UAE. We welcome everyone in our country," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Development funds

The Cabinet also approved plans to allow government entities to create their own development funds to help improve productivity and flexibility of government work.

"Today, in the Cabinet session, we approved the policy of personal funds in the federal government, whereby government institutions can, according to regulations and standards, establish financing funds that serve their development programmes," Sheikh Mohammed said.

"The goal is to raise the productivity and flexibility of government work to achieve better results for the public."

Updated: November 09, 2021, 12:25 PM