When it comes to texting while driving everyone knows it is a bad business. If coffee drinking while driving was to be tracked, we would probably have lots of statistics of fender-bender coffee mishaps from busy commuters everyday on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. The infamous Mr. Bean episode where he brushes his teeth, washes his face and gets ready for work is probably a common place occurrence rather than comedy gold.
Is the technology that allows cars to drive themselves supposed to eliminate our need for moment-to-moment focus and liberate us from our driving multi-tasking skills that we believe we master? Unequivocally, yes.
Now, Imagine landing at Dubai International airport where you step out of your airplane (already flown on autopilot with a human as backup), onto the curb. Suddenly your own car pulls up but no one is driving. Instead of stepping back in fear or waking from a dream, you get into the front seat and say in your country’s native language: ‘Home.’ Off you go as it perfectly navigates the various roadways and byways past Dubai Downtown area to Dubai Marina.
Instead of stressing about driving– you are oddly calm, quietly texting from the front seat. Manual controls lie in front of you if you choose to take over — but it’s been years since you’ve wanted to; you might miss your favorite football match. All around you are cars perfectly synchronized to be at the optimal distance away from your vehicle, all mindlessly but efficiently driving and avoiding obstacles, scurrying to their destinations.
To your right is a taxi — indeed there is still a driver there — as regulators are finishing their tests on completely driverless taxis — more out of concern that customers would hesitate than out of fear of error. There hasn’t been an accident via taxi for over 1 year since drivers no longer actually control the driving and no longer even take cash. They are known as vehicle supervisors and actually work on office work of the transportation department from the front seat.
For Dubai — If driverless cars are adopted in the future, it would be a major symbol. It may signal a turning point when automation of the routine tasks that expats are currently employed for becomes noticeable. In a place that is swimming in capital — but not in people, the traditional method is to import skilled and unskilled labor to Dubai for all sorts of jobs. Despite widespread adoption of automation in Dubai for all sorts of things — automatic speed cameras, digital services, driverless metro and other technologies — the traditional method of needing low skilled expats on a mass scale has lived on.
But that is likely to change. As more and more of Dubai INC. goes online and the smart city blueprint is implemented, it is things like the driverless car that may be the catalyst to transform the service sector for the better. Business owners will be able to create more reliable delivery services — with fully automated and cost competitive delivery systems; while the delivery man would only have to worry about getting out of the van, dropping your item at your door and back to his autonomous vehicle. This future is possible, it is smooth and on time.
In fact, this change may be just around the corner, as the vision of a smart city is not far yet from Dubai residents, or at least its rulers. In February 2015, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) stated that it has commissioned a study into driverless vehicles which could be used at the World Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai. The project is said to be part of the leading Arab city endeavors to use the latest technologies in the field of smart mobility solutions, road safety, and environmental sustainability.
While the headlines have largely covered ubiquitous Google driverless cars, you are invited to indulge in the reality of Mercedes’ Autonomous F 015, a luxury concept car, that may keep you hoping for more.
The ecosystem of driverless cars adoption seems to be taking a slow but sure upward trend internationally, especially with more guidelines coming out to regulate the industry. In early February 2015, the UK government announced that it will publish a code of practice in the spring for those who want to test driverless vehicles on U.K. roads. The first driverless cars supported by Cable’s prize fund are expected to hit the road in the UK this summer.
Tectonic shifts in the automotive industry are expected to take place according to major consulting firms and think tanks. Morgan Stanley estimates that autonomous cars could save the United States $1.3 trillion annually by lowering fuel consumption, reducing crash costs, and boosting productivity. PwC forecasts a reduction of traffic accidents by a factor of 10, and a 2013 study by the Columbia Univeristy The Earth Institute estimated a reduction in the fleet of vehicles in the United States by a factor of 10.
With that in mind, automotive manufacturers are expected to keep an eye on how to appeal to consumers and especially luxury-loving GCC residents and push them into giving up speedy and hyper-sport cars, and putting their lives in the hands of street robots, amid an already skeptical public opinion.
As consumers, we want convenience, happiness, cost saving, and certainly safety, but it is often not easy to digest the fast and tremendous changes that are hitting upon our lifestyles, every single day.