Mattar Al Tayer delivering a keynote speech on “Urban Planning: Pathways to Wellbeing” at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai will operate 10 driverless taxis by the end of this year, the chief of the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said at the World Government Summit (WGS) 2023 on Monday.

Mattar Al Tayer, Commissioner General for Infrastructure, Urban Planning and Well-Being Pillar at Dubai Government, Chairman of the Supreme Committee of Urban Planning in Dubai and the Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, was delivering a keynote speech on “Urban Planning: Pathways to Wellbeing.”

While referring to the need for including flexibility and innovation in urban planning, Al Tayer said these are achievable by adopting flexible policies, constant upgrading of facilities and services in the city, and benefiting from new mobility patterns such as self-driving transport.

Pointing out that Dubai aims to convert 25 per cent of trips to self-driving means by 2030, he announced: “Ten autonomous taxis will be operating in partnership with GM Cruise by the end of 2023.”

Hot topics

Al Tayer reaffirmed that fostering well-being and sustainability have become hot topics on the agenda of politicians and policymakers.

“These elements have become particularly pressing given the strategic challenges faced by metropolitan cities in terms of high-growth rates of population, urbanisation & urban sprawl, rapid technology revolution, and global climate change. All of these elements underscore the need to chart out models, plans and projects for serving humans,” he said.

“Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, Dubai foresaw these challenges facing cities. In 2021, His Highness launched the Dubai Urban Plan 2040, a strategic and flexible transformational plan aimed at making Dubai as the best city for living in the world. The plan charts out an integrated future map for sustainable urban development in the emirate focused on human wellbeing, improved quality of life and enhanced global competitiveness of Dubai.”

Three key aspects

Further reviewing the role of urban planning in enhancing wellbeing, and Dubai’s experience in this field, Al Tayer highlighted three more key aspects of urban planning, namely Land Use Planning, Infrastructure and Mobility and Environment and Sustainability.

He emphasised on the importance of integrating communities and optimising the use of infrastructure and transportation means to meet the needs of society.

Dubai’s Urban Plan 2040, he said, seeks to raise population density, and increase the scale of development and investment to benefit from the existing infrastructure and services by providing 80 per cent of the daily population’s needs within 20 minutes or less by walking, cycling or riding soft mobility means. “The plan also aims to retain 60 per cent of the total area of the emirate as natural reserves and rural areas.”

“The plan identifies five urban centres: the Historical Centre of the city in Deira and Bur Dubai, the Economic and Financial Centre in the Burj Khalifa and Business Bay areas, the Tourism and Entertainment Centre in Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence, and the Exhibitions Centre at Expo 2020 City, and the Knowledge and Innovation Centre at Dubai Silicon Oasis.”

Flexible model

He said the plan also adopts a flexible model for the governance of urban planning that strikes a balance between sustainable development and optimal utilisation of lands and projects. “Work is underway to develop a comprehensive strategy for wellbeing in Dubai, with a view to creating a model for wellbeing that enhances Dubai’s appeal as the best city for living in the world. The strategy encompasses three levels: individuals, communities and the city, and 17 agencies are working together to chart out this strategy. A survey was conducted among various segments of society and it screened over 12,000 respondents to gauge their needs and aspirations.”

Al Tayer said efforts should be made to reduce the carbon footprint and adopt sustainable solutions to conserve resources for future generations. “His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, designated 2023 as the Year of Sustainability. In November this year, the UAE will host the Climate Change Conference (COP 28) at Expo City in Dubai.”

Distinctive experiences

Al Tayer cited some of the distinctive experiences of cities that employed urban planning to enhance the wellbeing of residents.

He rounded up his speech by reviewing the lessons learned from Dubai’s experience, which he summarised in that plans and strategies had to be human-centric, set out priorities aligned with current and future needs to ensure resource sustainability, and focus on governance as an organisational structure that guarantees the implementation of plans developed. Among the lessons learned is providing integrated and accessible services in areas to achieve happiness for the community and reduce the need for long distance transportation. He also highlighted the need to use advanced technologies such as AI and big data to enhance the efficiency of city planning and decision-making as well as ensure periodic reviews of sector plans to ensure alignment, flexibility and adaptation to changes. He concluded by adding that success of cities was not a coincidence, but rather a result of systematic planning, efficient implementation, and ongoing development.