The convergence of three distinct but linked technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) – has farther-reaching implications on the automotive industry than previously calculated. Recent strides within these three disciplines suggest that autonomous vehicles are closer to commercial applications than ever before.

According to a report published by research firm Strategy Analytics in partnership with Intel, economists peg the value of autonomous vehicles as an opportunity worth $7 trillion across the globe. This valuation takes into account the passenger economy sector of autonomous vehicles. Apart from transforming the automotive market, this new economy will also create new pathways across a range of industries.

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to not only displace vehicle ownership as an integral part of automotive experience, but also define a new landscape of consumer and business vehicle use. The global revenue breakdown effected by autonomous vehicles can be determined across three sectors of mobility: Consumer, Business/B2B, and emerging pilotless vehicle services.

The new strategy in Dubai aims to steer the Emirate into the automated passing lane. Helmed ably by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the goal is to divert 25% share of Dubai’s total transportation towards self-driving vehicles.

The “Dubai Self-Driving Transportation Strategy”, launched in conjunction with RTA Dubai aims to “increase the efficiency of the transport sector, cut transportation costs by 44% or AED900 million annually, and bring AED22 billion in annual economic revenues.”

The consumer mobility service sector in Dubai will be primarily split into the following streams: concierge and taxi services, work-commute pooling, and ride-hailing, whether passenger or goods.

Commercial transportation duties like freight delivery, service fleets, and long-haul transport can be ably carried out by autonomous mobility services. This approach will boost efficiency across Dubai’s transport network. The use of driverless vehicles on the roads will also reduce traffic accidents while cutting down on environmental pollution by 12 percent.

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While autonomous cars are ready to hit the roads, we are lacking in the ecosystem needed to support the new technology.

Social Impact of Autonomous Vehicle Integration

As autonomous vehicles begin to permeate the social fabric of Dubai, a lot of societal long-term impacts will start making themselves apparent. On the ground level, these impacts will be seen through interactions between roads users like drivers, pedestrians, and other parties. In terms of key societal impacts, autonomous vehicles will contribute to:

  • Driver freedom
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduction of traffic fatalities, accidents, and congestion

There is room for exponential multiplication of positive societal impact as AVs further proliferate in greater segments of the economy. Also, there are shared services found within the passenger economy. The co-experience of AVs as a shared service will influence the level of acceptance and adoption in the future. The existence of ride-hailing services like Uber, Careem, and Lyft already speaks for the co-experience context. In fully autonomous vehicles, passengers will travel within multi-user environments, similar to a lobby or living room.

Challenges to be Tackled for AV Adoption

Although autonomous vehicles boast of considerable economic and societal benefits, there are multiple potential hurdles in their commercial introduction that need to be addressed first.

In a 2018 Gallup survey, those on the younger side of the population demographic expressed distrust towards the use of driverless vehicles. Education also plays a role in how autonomous vehicles are perceived. Those with an educational background of less than a bachelor’s degree were seen to be less likely to favour AVs.

Cyber security is an overwhelming concern playing against acceptance of autonomous vehicles. By dint of relying on connected communication networks, autonomous vehicles automatically run the risk of cyber attacks that can take over, render useless, or divert a unit towards other purposes it was not designed for. Before AVs become mainstream, the issue of data breaches, malicious control of the entire autonomous ecosystem needs to be resolved.

Another important barrier to adoption is the complicated issue of legality. Such a framework does not yet exist that can address future liability issues. Presently, assignment of fault cannot be determined in an accident involving an AV. The entire law system needs to come together to set up a comprehensive legal framework that clearly identifies the legal position in the event of fault and liabilities for damages.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect to AV adoption is the setting up of a comprehensive legal framework, which is as yet nascent.

Where Does Dubai Stand in the Roadmap to an Autonomous Future?

The rapid pace of development of autonomous technology could mean that AVs would share our roads in less than five years. Dubai is ahead of the curve, having recognized this transformative change and has already begun to create economic and legislative environments to support this new technology.

The vision outlined by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, in conjunction with RTA Dubai will transform Dubai as a visionary platform for self-driving technology innovations. An in-depth strategy and roadmap are already live to achieve this multi-pronged goal, which also includes the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport. Hosted by RTA Dubai, this challenge is a multi-year international contest designed for industry leaders, start-ups, and academia to tackle transport challenges faced by global cities.

Such initiatives, along with various others aimed at advancing technological solutions in self-driving transport will enhance the role of Dubai as a champion in innovation in the automotive sector. Dubai will also expand its centre of excellence through strategic partnerships with a vision to venture further, go faster, and race to a greener future that could help save lives.