August 10, 2023
Abu Dhabi is set to accelerate the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
The emirate has been running a smart transport pilot since late 2021 as it lays the foundations for its development of more advanced sustainable transport solutions.
And now the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) of the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) has issued a progress report expressing its satisfaction with how things have gone so far.
A key pillar of the project – which is being carried out on Yas Island and Saadiyat Island – is the United Arab Emirates’ first fleet of self-driving taxis, branded TXAI and owned by local company Bayanat.
The cabs’ automated functionality comes via full-stack software and hardware plus state-of-the-art operating and monitoring systems from Chinese autonomous tech firm WeRide, which was recently issued with a license to test countrywide in the UAE – the first national testing permit granted anywhere in the world.
In Abu Dhabi, five self-driving taxis were launched initially in November 2021, with a further three joining the program a year later. According to the ITC, these have “revolutionized” local transportation, proving extremely popular with locals and visitors alike.
The service has already acquired more than 5,000 registered users, and successfully completed more than 17,000 journeys.
Abu Dhabi’s autonomous transport options were bolstered further when four mini robobuses, also utilizing WeRide tech, were added to the fleet in November.
The pilot was hailed by H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of the DMT.
“The project is a crucial component of Abu Dhabi’s smart transport strategy, which aims to adopt smart and sustainable transport solutions driven by knowledge and innovation,” he said.
“This initiative aligns with Abu Dhabi’s future vision of developing smart cities and achieving sustainable growth in the emirate. By collaborating with strategic partners from the government and private sectors, the DMT and ITC are working towards establishing a smart, integrated and sustainable transport system.”
Al Shorafa added that he expected accelerated development of the transport strategy to spur increased investment.
Abu Dhabi’s pursuit of an Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) system is being accompanied by the development of a digital twin, which will facilitate advanced digital simulations and provide technical infrastructures, supported by the cloud. The system streamlines data storage and processing.
The next step for the AVs is more rigorous testing in the extreme heat of summer, with increased numbers of passengers.
A spokesperson for WeRide said: “The Middle East is one of our key target markets. Obtaining this very first national-level license will speed up and scale up our local development.”
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