Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, took to Twitter in April to announce the new driverless car benchmark. Other current projects include an infrastructure investment plan for improving highways, railways, airports and bridges, along with various types of efforts to make Dubai a smart city with responsive infrastructure and achieve sustainable resource use.
Leaders will continue to look at the feasibility of driverless cars and other innovations at a national transportation expo event in October.
"We look forward to the participation of hundreds of high-level experts and specialists in the transport and smart cities sectors from all over the world at the second edition of NATRANS Expo.” Abdullah Alkathiri, director general of the Federal Transport Authority, said in a May 16 press release. “We also expect 100 exhibitors and 75 speakers from global institutions and bodies concerned to attend NATRANS Expo."
Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, lived in the UAE for 18 years. Nerguizian specializes in the study of strategic and military dynamics in the region and has written a number of books on the Middle East.
“It's good to set a target," Nerguizian told the Gulf News Journal Wednesday, referring to whether the smart car plan is ultimately feasible.
Nerguizian said Qatar and other neighbors have also used 2030 as the benchmark for improvement projects. “What you can’t plan for is how much of this technology will evolve, and how fast. … The danger is in overstating or understating how complex the technology is.”
Nerguizian also said a lot of the current efforts involve changing direction from how Dubai has handled urban development in the past. Citing major bottlenecks in transportation and other issues, Nerguizian talked about how cities like Dubai that were much smaller in the 1970s and 1980s started out on “organic path” to urban development but found it hard to handle the boom of later years.
“That's why you have so much of a rethink.” Nerguizian said.
In theory, Nerguizian said, lots of things are possible in the region. For example, the literature around current UAE planning mentions the controversial and the very theoretical “Hyperloop” high-speed tube transportation devised by Tesla owner and tech pioneer Elon Musk.
“A lot of this is about testing and technology.” Nerguizian said, noting that if there is a place where hyperloop would work, it would be a place like Dubai, a place where urban planners have the room to introduce the infrastructure that's needed, for example, straight tracks and tubes.
“Kudos for them for trying it.” Nerguizian said. “UAE has always been about attracting the best and brightest.”