Dubai: Driverless taxis that are set to revolutionise the transport sector in Dubai will be as cheap as Uber rides, a top official of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said on Monday.
Speaking to Gulf News from the RTA stand at the World Government Summit (WGS 2023), Ahmed Hashem Bahrozyan, CEO of the Public Transport Agency at RTA, said the authority has no plans to put premium fare for the driverless taxis that will make a debut by this year end.
He said it also aims to reduce the fare of aerial taxis after a phased introduction in 2026.
His comments came close on the heels of the announcements that Dubai will see 10 driverless taxis on the roads by end of this year and the aerial taxis will take off in 2026.
“Dubai aims to convert 25 per cent of trips to self-driving means by 2030. Ten autonomous taxis will be operating in partnership with GM Cruise by the end of 2023,” Mattar Al Tayer, Commissioner General for Infrastructure, Urban Planning and Well-Being Pillar at Dubai Government and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, announced at WGS 2023 on Monday.
Behrozyan said RTA has no plans to implement a premium fare for the driverless taxis.
“The pricing of the autonomous taxis will be in the same range as the regular taxis and the Uber service. They will not be higher than that.”
“We will be launching the 10 vehicles in a limited area and it will be initially in Jumeirah area and we will hopefully make more detailed announcements as we get closer to the end of the year.”
The official confirmed that Downtown Dubai, which was expected to see the driverless taxis first, will not be part of the first phase.
“That’s part of the expansion areas but initially it will be a smaller area with only 10 vehicles.”
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Inter-emirate flying taxis
Earlier on Sunday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, accompanied by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, approved models of aerial taxi vertiports developed by RTA. The service is set to be operational by 2026.
Bahrozyan said Dubai has been vehemently pursuing its ambition to be a pioneer in introducing the aerial taxi service to transform the transportation sector ever since the first test flight of a driverless aerial taxi that took place during WGS in 2017.
“We have been following the technology and following the development of the aircraft. With the advancements made, we feel that by 2026, there will be an opportunity to launch the service. By then, we hope the certification processes to be complete for passenger transport.”
He said RTA hopes that the project will thrive on a three-way partnership between the authority and two private players, Skyports Infrastructure and Joby Aviation.
He said the five seater aircraft being manufactured by Joby Aviation has a “very good range so it can not only do trips inside Dubai, but also run trips to Abu Dhabi and other emirates as well.”
RTA is also working with local partners such as the civil aviation authorities.
Dubai International Airport, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina are the areas that are expected to receive the first flying taxi stations’ vertiports.
Who will use flying taxis first?
According to Behrozyan, tourists who would like to explore the city with a new aerial experience and business person who are ready to pay a higher premium for commuting with the city are expected to use the flying taxis first.
However, he said as the service gets expanded in the next phases, the premium fare would be brought down.
“Eventually, after the first few years I’m sure that the technology price will go down and the production will increase and the demand will increase. So we believe that the service will be in the range of an Uber, maybe slightly higher but not much higher. So, hopefully after rolling it out, by one or two years or so, its price will be very much similar to that of the other mobility services.”
Asked about the premium fare that would be introduced in the initial phase, he said “We don’t know yet as we don’t know what is the price of production and operation and we have not signed [any agreements on that] yet with the partners.”