Battery-powered, self-driving electric pods will soon be transporting passengers around Dubai after app-based taxi booking service Careem announced a partnership with NEXT Future Transportation.
The pods, built by NEXT, are able to operate individually or by linking together to form bus-like mass transport systems. Operating freely, the pods will be able to collect passengers and take them from door to door. Alternatively, the pods can connect, allowing passengers to move between vehicles.
Already a major feature of the Masdar City development in Abu Dhabi, driverless cars are at the forefront of the tech world's developmental programme. It is anticipated that self-driving cars could be rolled out in major tourism hotspots around Dubai to help ease congestion, as well as at the Expo 2020 site.
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Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder and managing director of Careem, highlighted the environmental and strategic importance of driverless car technology, saying, “We are acutely aware of the ground realities of intra-city and inter-city transport. While serving the immediate needs of the region, we are also cognisant of the importance of innovating for a greener and more delightful future. NEXT offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit.”
Similar vehicles were first seen in April at the second Mena Transport Congress and Exhibition, when box-like vehicles ran exhibitors between sites on pre-programmed routes, carrying up to 10 passengers at one time.
Built around a high-tech sensor system, the cars were named EZ10, and were created by EasyMile, a French company and joint venture between Ligier Group and Robosoft.
The partnership between Careem and NEXT follows the recent launch of the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. The aim of the initiative is to have 25 percent of all transportation trips made by smart and driverless cars by 2030.