Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid oversees tests of world’s first autonomous pods in Dubai

The RTA's new transport medium can accommodate six seated and four standing commuters.

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, attended initial tests of the world’s first autonomous pods on Tuesday.

The project has been developed by the Roads and Transport Authority in co-operation with Next Future Transportation.

The initial tests took place on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai and was attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed, and Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future.

The autonomous pods are designed to travel short and medium distances in dedicated lanes. They can be coupled or detached, depending on the destination of riders, within seconds. They are fitted with cameras and electromechanical technologies to perform the coupling and detaching processes, which can be activated while in motion, reported state news agency Wam.

Each pod measures almost 3m in length, and stands 2.8m high. They weigh in at 1,500kg and they have the capacity to accommodate ten riders – six seated and four standing. The autonomous pod is fitted with a battery that supports three hours of operation, and can be fully charged in six hours. Its average speed is 20kph.

"The pilot test of driverless units is directed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in the context of transforming Dubai into the smartest city worldwide," said Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the RTA executive directors board.

“It echoes the Dubai Autonomous Transport Strategy aimed at converting 25 per cent of mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transportation by 2030."

The RTA has signed an agreement with American Next Future Inc to develop autonomous units named NX1 as part of the initial phase of Dubai Future Accelerators. The prototypes of these units are being manufactured in Italy and shipped to Dubai for trials, Mr Al Tayer said.

The autonomous pods have three protection systems in order to ensure full control and avoid accidents.