Flying taxis, driverless cars and smart pods that look like they have rolled out of the set of a sci-fi movie are just some of the models of transportation that residents across Dubai can look forward to in the very near future, experts at the Arab Future Cities Summit 2018 revealed.
Speaking about the future of transportation in the region, Ahmed Hashem Bahrozyan, CEO of Public Transport Agency, RTA, said the public transportation system in Dubai is still maturing.
"We are trying to shift the mindset from transportation to mobility," he said. "There has to be more choice for residents and visitors in Dubai. Weather conditions are not ideal for walking, so there is a need for more short trip choices ranging from buses, taxis and shared bookings. We want to enable as many choices as possible for residents to plan their journeys and all of this has to happen seamlessly."
Experts say that Dubai is already well on its way to achieving most of its smart city transportation goals, with several initiatives being launched to develop new and effective modes of transportation in the city. Chief among these is the Dubai Smart Self-Driving Vision, which was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in 2016. Similarly, the RTA hopes to make 25 per cent of daily transportation in Dubai self-driven by 2030, under the Dubai Future Accelerators initiative.
In addition, the Dubai Future Foundation has developed an Autonomous Transportation Strategy, which is expected to generate over $6 billion in annual economic revenues by reducing transportation costs, carbon emissions and raising the productivity of individuals who get stuck for hours in traffic. The strategy is also estimated to cut transportation costs by 44 per cent and result in savings of up to $245 million a year. It will also help save $408 million a year by reducing environmental pollution by 12 per cent. Most importantly, the strategy is expected to bring in around $9 billion in annual economic returns by increasing the efficiency of the transportation sector in Dubai.
Bahrozyan also highlighted the important role that the RTA's Enterprise Command and Control Centre (EC3) will play in the adoption of multi-modal transport solutions in a smart city setting. The centre, which was launched in May last year, allows the RTA to gather data and then make important decisions on issues such as traffic congestion.
"As technologies such as autonomous vehicles evolve, we want to be ready with solutions on how they can be utilised," he said. "Big Data is very important for us and this is just one of the ways in which we are preparing ourselves. We want to be one of the first cities in the world to integrate autonomous vehicles into our public transportation systems."
He added: "There has been a lot of interest regarding autonomous vehicles and when they will be available to the general public. Right now, we are eager to work with different entities to bring such choices to the public. Already, we have made a lot of progress and have conducted trials with autonomous shuttles. We have also had a four-minute trial of the flying drone taxi recently. With the success of the trial, we signalled to the rest of the world that we are ready for adopting such futuristic technology."
Andrew Bevan, Smart Mobility director at Parsons Corporation, also noted that while there has been a lot of interest among the general public on autonomous vehicles, there were still a lot of hurdles that needed to be overcome, especially in terms of regulations. "However, it is good to see companies such as Uber, Careem and Tesla looking at ways to further improve the public transportation system. The future will see more choices for residents and visitors alike."
One of the main issues that a lot of residents end up facing are long wait times and limited choices during rush hours.
Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem, said a system of shared transportation is one option that residents are interested in adopting. "Shared pooling is a great way for people to move from one place to another, especially during peak times when wait lines are long, and it becomes very expensive to travel long distances."
According to Forbes, the global market size of the autonomous shared taxi segment is expected to reach $38.6 billion by 2030, with more than an estimated six billion trips, and the autonomous shutters are likely to reach to $74.42 billion, with an estimated 20.7 billion trips.
"The challenge is to keep the city flowing, and for that to happen, the backbone has to continue to function. Public transportation is what needs to be improved to provide the mobility that a smart city like Dubai needs," said Alex Rentier, MD of Dubai Metro & Tram, Serco Middle East.
With a wealth of choices, vendors should also ensure that security and safety are a priority for everyone taking the public transportations system, Bahrozyan said.
"We are confident that within five years, we will be able to see a lot more progress in bringing new modes of transportation to the public. As the price of technology goes down, and innovation in the sector keeps happening, more of such technology will be available to the public. Our recent trials with the autonomous vehicles and flying drone taxis were also important to gauge the level of trust that residents have in such technology. Residents have shown a high level of trust, and with the benefits plain for all to see, implementation should come fast in the next few years."