New UAE laws needed to prepare for advances in self-driving cars

Official at Ministry of Cabinet Affairs says authorities will adapt legislation to keep pace with technology

FILE PHOTO: A Waymo self-driving car is seen during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/ Stephen Lam/File Photo

Ground-breaking advances in technology must be met by new legislation to properly keep pace with the rate of change, a UAE government official has warned.

Atraf Shehab, of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, said authorities were working hard to adapt the country’s legal framework to what is often described as the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Using the example of self-driving cars, he said new laws were needed to meet new problems thrown up by autonomous vehicles.

Legislation, for example, would be needed to establish who should be held to account if one of the cars was involved in an accident, he said.

“We had cars before, now we have self-driving cars,” he said. “Why? Because the digital technologies have merged with the physical technologies to create new sectors, new products.

“It’s happening very fast. It goes to all the sectors, all the systems, all the ways of life we currently live.”

Mr Shehab, director of future development at the ministry, said rapid advances in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence represented huge opportunities to improve peoples’ lives.

He said the fourth Industrial Revolution followed on from the harnessing of steam in the late 18th Century, the development of electricity in the 1870s and the emergence of electronics and IT in the late 1960s.

The fourth Industrial Revolution was the theme of the Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum, held in Abu Dhabi this week.


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The UAE hopes to work more closely with South Korea, a world-leader in innovation, as it seeks to rapidly expand its own technology sector and diversify its economy.

In line with this, ministers in the Emirates are aware of the need for existing laws to be updated to keep pace with developments.

This summer, the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai said that self-driving cars would be seen on the city's streets in the "near future".

“We cannot do this without the right talent or an integrated cyber security environment,” Mr Shehab said.

“We have seen what has been happening with the data hacking globally right now.

“We need new types of policies and regulations - existing policies and regulations do not cope with the fourth Industrial Revolution.

“If a self-driving car hits a person, who is responsible? If it has an accident, who’s insured? Who’s wrong? Is it the driver or the car or the passenger?

“If a car gets hacked, who is responsible for that? Existing policies and regulations don’t cover this area.

“There are new types of regulations required to be developed and experimented with before being finally applied.”

Examples of how new technologies can transform lives include the ability of medics to remotely monitor patients who remain in their own homes rather than being admitted to hospital.

Recent technologies such as 3D printing are also already being used in construction, while robot helpers could eventually be developed to perform household tasks.

The UAE has become a leader in the development of self-driving cars. In August, the RTA said it had endorsed standards of testing for electric, hybrid and self-driving vehicles that will ensure Dubai is “pioneering” in the field.

Dubai has a target of 25 per cent of all journeys to be self-driving by 2030. The goal was set after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Dubai Smart Self-Driving vision in 2016.