July 7, 2023
Chinese self-driving company WeRide has been awarded a groundbreaking permit to test its autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the United Arab Emirates.
The license will allow WeRide to run its Level 4 vehicles on public roads across the entire country – the first time such a far-reaching permit has been issued anywhere in the world. Until now, we have become accustomed to driverless vehicles being granted approval to operate in specific locations within nations, such as California and Arizona in the United States, and Wuhan and Shanghai in China.
The news was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Twitter.
In a lengthy statement that covered an array of future strategies and policies for the UAE, the decision was revealed alongside an update to the UAE’s plans to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles.
“Today, in the Council of Ministers, we approved the national policy for electric vehicles, which includes building a national network for electric vehicle chargers, regulating the electric vehicle market and stimulating related industries to ensure reduced emissions, energy consumption, and the preservation of the quality of roads that the UAE enjoys,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“We also approved today, within the Council of Ministers, the first national license for self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads, which was granted to the specialized WeRide company.”
The license is applicable in all seven of the Emirates – Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and the most populous of them all, Dubai, which has been vigorously pursuing its own automated transport solutions.
It claims to have a presence in no fewer than 18 cities globally, including Abu Dhabi, where most recently it participated in a pilot introduced over the Eid-al-Adha holiday. This granted visitors to Saadiyat Island and Yas Island in the city free access to autonomous driving car services, including a model called TXAI, which WeRide launched in collaboration with local company Bayanat.
It also has experience elsewhere in the Middle East, having conducted test rides of its self-driving bus in Saudi Arabia last year.
The UAE is emerging as a global leader in its pursuit of automated transport, with Dubai in particular at the forefront of its efforts. It has set an ambitious target of 25% of all journeys to be completed autonomously by 2030 and has seen the introduction of several significant initiatives over the past couple of years. These include testing of self-driving taxis from General Motors-owned Cruise, trials of autonomous passenger boats and the unveiling of a driverless truck from local company Evocargo.
Dubai has also been quick to establish a legal framework for self-driving transport.
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