Transport is more than just travel. It connects people, provides access to jobs, delivers vital services, and enables trade. Mobility is central to the whole of society.
But transport also brings significant challenges. Population growth is leading to traffic congestion, with its related side effects of pollution, collisions, and wasted time. With the number of vehicles on the roads expected to soar to over 2 billion by 2040, the need to find a better solution for transportation becomes ever more pressing.
As the sheer number of cars clog the roads, how do we keep traffic moving, avoid crashes, and reduce pollution?
This is where ‘smart mobility’ comes into play. Smart mobility is a revolutionary way of thinking about and delivering transport — one that is cleaner, safer, and more efficient. The concept includes a range of modes of transportation and traffic management systems.
Instead of cars powered by fossil fuels and internal combustion engines, we will have electric or hydrogen vehicles with lower emissions. Driverless cars will reduce human errors that can lead to accidents. Drones will deliver goods to people’s houses.
Vision of a workable future
Traffic sensors using AI will communicate with smart signs and traffic lights to redirect vehicles and keep traffic moving. Passengers will use apps to arrange ride sharing in public taxis. Cars will automatically switch to electric when entering 'clean air zones' near schools. And cars will come equipped with collision avoidance software.
The UAE is a country that puts future tech at the heart of its transportation plans. Individual transport authorities have developed long-term smart mobility initiatives with Dubai leading the way. The Smart Dubai 2021 vision aims to transform Dubai into the smartest and happiest city using digital innovations.
The UAE’s main aims in smart mobility are to leverage technology to reduce transport costs, congestion and emissions, and to enhance connectivity within the UAE and regionally. In fact, Dubai has set a goal that by 2030, 25 per cent of all transportation trips in Dubai will be smart and driverless.
The UAE is not alone in its ambition to transform the future of mobility. The UK also stands out in this area. Our tech companies excel in smart cities projects, bringing their capabilities to the GCC. We are keen to bring this collaborative approach to developing technology that improves people’s lives.
The vast expertise in the UK and the UAE means we can drive innovation not only in autonomous vehicles, but in the future of mobility overall. We need to partner to come up with solutions – the many challenges will not be solved by one company or one country alone.
The UK has four of the Top 10 universities in the world for R&D, along with specialist Formula 1 companies. In fact more than 4,000 motorsports firms are based in Britain, giving us a huge advantage when developing new technologies for the automotive sector.
Tangible results and contracts
Numerous UK companies are already partnering with the UAE on smart mobility projects. The Westfield POD – a self-driving vehicle – has been extensively trialled across Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, completing over five million kilometres. The company has signed a MoU with Emirates airline to develop a proof-of-concept for a complete airside transport system – following on from the success of ongoing trials at Heathrow Airport.
Earlier this year, British Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) developer BeemCar signed a cooperation agreement with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to step up collaboration to develop futuristic mobility solutions through PRT built on suspended transport technology. The operation is said to occupy less space, as well as being power-efficient, small in size and light in weight.
British company what3words recently partnered with Careem in Saudi Arabia and with Mercedes across the GCC to provide a simple address system for passengers to use for navigation, pick up and drop-off. Every three square meters in the world have been allocated a simple three-word address, which is simple to remember and use, allowing people to enter precise locations for places that don’t have street addresses like new builds or beaches. And because the technology is localised with Arabic words, the solution proves extremely popular in the GCC.
Technology will make transport greener, cheaper and more efficient. We can have more impact when we collaborate and when we combine our expertise. That's where we shall see huge leaps in the future of mobility.
- Simon Penney is the UK’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East.