Dubai Roads and Transport Authority Tests Autonomous Pods

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has begun testing autonomous pods produced in Italy by US.-based Next Future Transportation. The six-seat vehicles are powered by electricity and have a top speed of 80 kms (50 miles) per hour. The RTA says the autonomous pods would travel on pre-programmed routes in the first few years, but would eventually become accessible for pick up from home using a mobile telephone application.

1.5 million dirhams ($410,000 US) have been allocated for further research and development of the vehicles, which Dubai hopes to use for local transportation under the city’s 2030 Dubai Future Accelerators, an initiative which aims to make 25 percent of daily transportation self-driven. It’s expected that achieving this goal would reduce accidents and prove an eco-friendly solution, as many projects being pursued are electric.

RTA Director-General Mattar Al Tayer said of the pods: “It echoes the Dubai Autonomous Transport Strategy aimed at converting 25 percent of mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transportation by 2030…The success of initial tests of these units will bring about a breakthrough in transportation systems that offer innovative mobility solutions and ease snarls in the city.”

The autonomous pods measure 2.87 metres in length, 2.24 metres in width and 2.82 metres in height and are designed for short to medium distances. An NX1 pod can accommodate up to ten passengers (six seated and four standing). The 20 km/h pod’s battery should enable three hours of operation, with a charging time of six hours. Two pods can be coupled in just 15 to 20 seconds, or can be detached in around five seconds.

“The goal is to develop these two research vehicles,” Khaled al-Awadhi, director of Automated Collection Systems at the RTA, said. “These tests are aimed at developing the performance of these vehicles.”