Dubai in talks with Google and Uber over driverless cars tests

City trying to persuade tech heavyweights to bring self-driving cars here first

Dubai is preparing its roads for Uber, Tesla and Google to start testing driverless cars outside of the US.

In an interview with Arabian Business, Ahmed Bahrozyan, CEO of the RTA Licensing Agency, says the emirate is getting ready for the US tech giants to move abroad and begin testing road and climate conditions in other parts of the world. Dubai wants to be top of that list, and Bahrozyan says that while nothing has been agreed with these companies yet, talks are ongoing and that Dubai is trying to convince them it is the perfect candidate.

“Until now, we haven’t reached any agreement with Uber and Google,” he said. “But today we see companies are doing majority of their trials in the US and they are more comfortable there. We are talking to them and once they come out of the US, we want them to come to Dubai and there is a possibility that this will happen as well.

“We feel once they decide to come out of the US, we will be a very strong candidate as a city because of several reasons.”

One of the reasons, according to Bahrozyan, is Dubai’s flexibility and ability to move fast when it comes to the adoption of new technology, and on the legal and regulatory front. With recent changes to the UAE’s traffic laws, and the addition of new fines and penalties, laws surrounding self-driving vehicles will have to be strongly monitored, and a whole new approach may be required.

“They want a city that is flexible and that can adapt with them. They feel Dubai is one of those cities and so they seriously talk to us.”

Meanwhile, the wildly different climate we get here in the UAE provides a whole new challenge to tech companies principally operating in the US. With temperatures climbing up towards 50 degrees Celsius in the summer months, and with a much drier and dustier terrain, companies developing self-driving cars will be presented a range of different factors to consider.

“They had some issues with humidity and dust around their sensors, which had to be cleaned more often than they are,” said Bahrozyan. “These obstacles helped them learn and allows the technology to evolve as they see things that they have not seen before.”

With the RTA and Dubai Municipality wanting to see 25 percent of all transport automated by 2030, and with self-flying taxis set to take off soon, the emirate is doing all it can to persuade heavy hitters in the tech world to its shores.

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