Self-Driving Vehicles in the UAE —A Reasonable Choice?

23rd January 2019 BY
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For many seasoned travelers, the UAE and particularly Dubai is a bucket-list vacation destination. But navigating this large country can be a major question mark as the UAE is quite a widely-spread tourist destination, encompassing many varied regions many tourist destinations are separated by vast distances with long travel times between them.

Choosing a semi-autonomous self-driving vehicle in the country can be popular option for many travelers, especially Europeans and British travelers, who are used to driving on the left (wrong!) side of the road. The most notable of these vehicles is likely Tesla’s semi-autonomous Model 3, which is in Dubai showrooms already. What’s cooler is that these semi-autonomous cars have the ability to become fully self-driving in the near future through over-the-air updates.

Driverless Cars in the UAE


Where do we stand today?

A self-driving car is required to navigate through complex environment without any human input, detecting changes on the road through radars, odometry, GPS and computer vision. Mercedes-Benz made a breakthrough by driving an autonomous vehicle from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 2016, but it was not fully autonomous though as a driver had to be present to indicate a change of lanes and manoeuvre through erratic traffic conditions.

Companies like Google and Uber are also testing cars that can accelerate, brake, steer and navigate traffic. In any case, before these advances can gain further momentum, safeguards and industry accountability and getting to an agreed standard by which cars can communicate with each other will be essential. That is the reason governments are now jumping in with legislation governing the use of self-driving vehicles.

What does self-driving even mean?

As can be seen with the example of Mercedes above, there is widespread disagreement about what qualifies as a truly self driving car. Recently, America’s National Highway and Safety Administration waded in to the argument by breaking up the level of a car’s Autonomy in 5 distinct levels.

Level 0: This one is pretty basic. The driver (human) controls aspects of the car.

Level 1: Most vehicle functions are still controlled by the driver, but a specific function (like steering or accelerating) can be done automatically by the car.

Level 2: At least one driver assistance system of “both steering and acceleration/ deceleration using information about the driving environment” is automated, like cruise control and lane-centering. This means that the driver is disengaged from physically operating the vehicle by having his or her hands off the steering wheel AND foot off pedal at the same time.

Level 3: Drivers are still necessary in level 3 cars, but are able to completely shift “safety-critical functions” to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. The driver is still there to get involved if necessary, but is not required.

Level 4: Here we start to get “fully autonomous.” Level 4 vehicles can perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. However, autonomy here is limited ot the “operational design domain (ODD)” of the vehicle— it does not cover every driving situation.

Level 5: This refers to a fully-autonomous system that expects the vehicle’s performance to equal that of a human driver, in every driving scenario.

Future of self-driving vehicles in the UAE

As one can see, even the most advanced ‘self-driving’ vehicles on the road today are at Level 2 at best, with a small number of cars scraping in to Level 3. So there is still a long way for us to go.

But the future is bullish. It is estimated that 25% of car journeys in Dubai will be driver-less by 2030. Boston Consulting Group backed up this with a survey finding that indicating that 79% of consumers in the UAE are willing to drive self-driving vehicles and they are even willing to pay more for such cars whenever they do become available.

To sum up, while full self-driving cars have not been developed so far, their arrival seems to be on the horizon. For now, we need to manage with assisted vehicles. There are still a few glitches to fix and changes to make before we at long last realize our cutting edge dream of fully automatic, driver-less cars.

Until then – just head to our home page and book your choice of car. We have one of the largest fleets in the UAE with cars for people who love driving, with a focus on care, efficiency, and sustained satisfaction.

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