Dubai launches $5m global challenge for driverless transport

Best solutions, focusing on the first- and last-mile transport, to be awarded in October 2019

Dubai: Dubai announced a $5-million prize in a new global challenge in best self-driving transport (SDT) solutions, transport officials revealed at the World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai on Tuesday.

The winners will be awarded in October 2019 during the first Dubai World Congress and Challenge in Self-Driving Transport, announced the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai.

The worldwide contest, organised by the RTA in association with Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa University and NewCities, will be held every two years.

NewCities is an international non-profit organisation that studies the impact of disruptive technology — such as autonomous vehicles — on cities, among other research areas.

The prize will distributed in a number of categories — the winner in the large corporation category will get $3 million; the winner in the start-up category will receive $1.5 million; and the rest will be awarded in the academic and research categories.

The initiative follows Dubai’s goal to meet 25 per cent of its transport needs through autonomous or SDT by the year 2030. The strategy was announced last year by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

On Tuesday, Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of directors of the RTA, announced the congress and challenge during a press conference at WGS, which included Dr Arif Al Hammadi, deputy director, Khalifa University; and John Rossant, chairman, NewCities.

Al Tayer said the congress and challenge will serve as a global platform to promote autonomous transport, exchange best practices, encourage research and development, education, reward innovation, and offer networking opportunities.

The projects in the contest will be tested in simulated traffic conditions and will also be judged on rider safety, cyber-security, user and environment friendliness, utility, and other criteria. They must be suitable for implementation in Dubai besides being able to be replicated or scaled up in other cities.

Al Tayer said enhancing infrastructure is one way of improving mobility — the other is using cutting-edge technology for innovative solutions. Both streams of action are being pursued in Dubai by the RTA, he added, saying SDT was a chief component of the innovation strategy.

Al Tayer said the RTA is studying possible solutions to traffic congestion, such as having dedicated SDT pathways alongside roads.

Dubai has already announced plans to introduce a ‘flying taxi’ and ‘autonomous pods’ for riders. The existing Dubai Metro is driverless and uses artificial intelligence to maintain near-perfect timings, among other uses, Al Tayer had said on Monday at WGS.

On Tuesday, Adel Shakeri, director of transportation systems at RTA and chairman of Dubai World Challenge for SDT team, said: “Dubai has some bottlenecks, parking problems and low ridership in public transport. We will accelerate the pace of development by launching this SDT. This first edition, the focus is on the ‘first and last mile’.”


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