Dubai welcomes first driverless car

16 Oct 2019

The opening day of Dubai’s Congress for Self-Driving, which is being hosted by the Roads and Transport Authority, offered a glimpse of things to come.

Completely autonomous motor vehicle are still some years away from reality, but the roads near to the Dubai World Trade Centre played host to a prototype.

This vehicle drove on a pre-programmed journey with a human driver still present for the sake of safety.

Jaguar Land Rover autonomous driving engineer Alan Hallan says that the car is a one-off but that vehicles like it will be coming in the future.

The speed at which autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous on roads is dependent not just on the technology but also on customer acceptance and legislation, Hallan adds.

A prototype version of the Jaguar iPace, which is a fully electric vehicle, has been modified specially for the Roads and Transport Authority exhibition to demonstrate the advanced state of the technology.

The prototype features radar cameras on the car’s front and rear, a GPS receiver on the roof, and a further camera designed to recognise traffic lights.

There are a number of driverless vehicles currently being tested, which have varying degrees of autonomy.

A Level 1 autonomous car comes with functions designed to assist the driver, such as cruise control.

However, a Level 4 vehicle lets the driver read a book or even go to sleep when the car drives in a certain place, such as on one lane of a motorway.

Level 4 autonomous cars still allow drivers to regain control of the vehicle at any given moment.

Autonomous driving is expected to progress still further to include use on roads within inner cities.

Level 5 vehicles are the expected future of autonomous driving – these will likely come without manual controls, a steering wheel or a driver’s seat.

However, those vehicles remain for many years in the future.

Jaguar safety driver Jim O’Donoghue, who was on board the iPace, says that more sensors would be required for the car to be driven in Dubai.

However, O’Donoghue still believes that driverless vehicles are the future of motoring in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the rest of the world.

An engine is easier to use with autonomous technology than with electric motors because automatic acceleration and braking are smoother, according to O’Donoghue.

The range of the iPace is around 250 kilometres in Dubai when completely charged and with operational air-conditioning to deal with the heat.

However, this could be extended to 420 kilometres in cooler countries.

While a completely driverless future may be a long way away, all road trips within Dubai could be autonomous within just 11 years, according to the Roads and Transport Authority.

The two-day event also showed off driverless electric pods capable of seating six people, demonstrating transportation possibilities for Dubai.

The technology will progress slowly over the course of the next decade, O’Donoghue says.

Driver error is responsible for 94% of all car accidents.

Taking out car insurance is thus not just a legal requirement in the UAE but also a smart thing to do for the sake of financial security.