'Pay to change lanes' idea sparks interest of global road body

The plan could be one of those debated at major transport event being held later this year in Abu Dhabi

Ajman, United Arab Emirates - April 28, 2019: Traffic in Ajman. Sunday the 28th of April 2019. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Street, Ajman. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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A UAE-based academic's proposal for a system that would see motorists pay each other for space on the roads has attracted the interest of a major international transport body.

The Secretary General of the World Road Association praised a plan which Saif Jabari, of New York University Abu Dhabi, thinks could be rolled out once driverless cars become common.

It would see a system of ‘micro-payments’, probably the equivalent to a few US cents, paid by drivers in a hurry to those who agree to give way on motorways to allow them to change lanes and save time.

Online surveys conducted by The National yesterday suggested most are yet to be convinced by the idea - only about one in five said they would pay to change lanes.

However, Mr Jabari, an expert in traffic modelling, has said he believes the system would be accepted by the public if it became an option as drivers across the world are already willing to pay road or bridge tolls to save time.

He was encouraged to attend the World Road Congress, which is attended by transport ministers, road infrastructure experts and technology companies, when it takes place in Abu Dhabi in October to build support.

“This is an interesting idea which has the potential to change the way we use our roads - it is certainly worth exploring further, taking social impacts and acceptability issues into account of course,” said Patrick Mallejacq, Secretary General of the World Road Association.

“To get driverless cars on the road we need to bring together road authorities, manufacturers, technology companies and other experts to begin planning for a future where driverless cars are part of our everyday lives.

“Many countries, such as the UAE, are leading the way in the quality of their road infrastructure and are well placed for the advent of driverless cars. The aim of the Congress being held in Abu Dhabi this October is to share learnings between countries and make the future a reality more quickly.”

The World Road Congress, established in 1908, runs every four years with driverless cars set to be one of the main themes of discussion. The event is organised by the World Road Association.

Some industry figures believe that driverless cars could become a reality by the early 2020s.