UAE’s smart transport initiatives start to pay off

24 January 2018
Country is aiming to be a global hub for innovation in its transport sector

The fascination of the UAE, particularly Dubai, with autonomous vehicles (AV) whether on land or air, as well as with electric cars, has started to pay dividends – the Gulf state was recently ranked as the world’s eighth most AV-ready country in the first edition of the Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index (AVRI) published by global consultancy firm KPMG.

The index puts UAE in the company of 19 other nations, many of which are considered among the world’s transport pioneers and most innovative – including the Netherlands, which occupied the top spot, Singapore, the US, Sweden, the UK and Germany.

The UAE’s inclusion in the list bodes well with its strategy to adopt innovation and new technologies related to public transport, which look set improve the ease and quality of life while potentially supporting the reduction of emissions from hydrocarbon-based vehicles.

It could also hasten the development of a comprehensive regulatory framework that would allow stakeholders – vehicle manufacturers, software companies, investors, insurance firms, regulators, and the riding public – to build and use pilot projects in a safe environment.

In turn, the UAE’s listing may spur it on to address some of its current weaknesses in the AV space, including lower-than-average AV related patents per million people and electric cars market share, and the lack of AV research and development hubs.

Even the US’ Boeing said last year that it was closely watching Dubai’s autonomous transport programme and was keen to work with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the agency charged with implementing the emirate’s transport plans.

The report underscored the quality of UAE’s roads, which it has invested heavily in over the past decade, in its overall score in terms of infrastructure, one of the report’s four sub-indices that include policy and legislation, technology and innovation, and consumer acceptance.

While there will remain major reservations in terms of the feasibility and safety of these new transport modes over the short- to medium-term, the UAE’s early adoption stance means it could become among the world’s leading AV research centres, an opportunity it missed or did not have in terms of the previous generations of transport, mobility and technology.

Reserving a place among the world’s leading development centres for upcoming transport technologies could tie in very well with the UAE’s innovation strategy, and strengthen public-private cooperation in a sector that is highly valuable for its economic diversification programme.

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