In an interview with GN Focus, Amer Ahmed Belhasa, Chairman, EDI Group of Companies and Vice Chairman, Belhasa Group, discusses how they are working to update the training programmes to create skilled drivers in the UAE. Excerpts.
Could you tell us about Emirates Driving Institute’s (EDI) latest initiatives to improve training in Dubai?
We have introduced many initiatives to improve training for students in line with the RTA. In 2017, we were the first driving institute in the UAE to introduce the premium Platinum Driving Course, allowing our customers to learn to drive on an elite fleet of cars including the Range Rover Sport, Mercedes G500 and C200, Tesla and Nissan Patrol. Customers opting for the Platinum course only pay a fixed course fee until they get their license, regardless of the number of classes or tests taken.
The new Platinum Driving Course offers an impressive portfolio of in-house services as well as a flexible training schedule, promising a stress-free driving training journey. The new Smart Training and Testing Yard facility was launched for testing drivers without the parking examiners being present. The smart test, which includes the slope test, emergency brake test, parallel parking test, garage parking test and angle parking test can be completed in 15 minutes. The yard is fitted with smart driver-testing vehicles capable of detecting areas of testing manoeuvres and the driver response to each manoeuvre. Sensors and high-tech cameras are used to check if a driving licence applicant will pass or fail.
It does not involve AI technology but instead uses video recognition and processing algorithms to check the vehicle’s movement and parking lines. As for safety and security, vehicles are fitted with a safety system considered the first of its kind worldwide. The initiative is part of RTA’s plans to support the Smart City initiative of the government of Dubai.
What are the latest innovations in training for commercial vehicle drivers?
The long-hauling vehicle drivers must be competent and skilled to be safe drivers while transporting goods. Thus, to enhance the driving skills of these commercial vehicle drivers, we have introduced a Certificate of Professional Competency (CPC) and ADR Training Course.
The long-hauling vehicle drivers must be competent and skilled to be safe drivers while transporting goods. Thus, to enhance the driving skills of these commercial vehicle drivers, we have introduced a Certificate of Professional Competency (CPC) and ADR Training Course. CPC is specifically aimed at training commercial vehicle drivers and those involved in transportation or fleet management. The ADR course is designed for tanker drivers and drivers who handle and carry dangerous goods or hazardous material. The students are trained on an articulated heavy truck wherein they learn to offset reverse on a 40-foot trailer, and coupling, uncoupling and driving on public roads with a loaded 20-foot trailer.
What are the new developments in e-learning at EDI?
EDI now offers e-lectures as well. Students who require assistance while attending the e-lectures or wish to have greater access, can visit our premises to take the lectures at no additional cost. We have a fully equipped hall and dedicated team of professional lecturers to assist students in different languages.
Tell us a bit about your desert and defensive driving courses.
Our desert driving course is a one-day course where customers learn to handle a modern 4X4 vehicle in Dubai’s breathtaking deserts. Customers will be in safe hands even as they pick up new skills and techniques as well as the knowledge to venture off road safely. This course is ideal for drivers hoping to increase their knowledge of driving off-road.
Our defensive driving course is specifically designed and tested to meet the demanding conditions of the UAE and the GCC. This course focuses heavily on enhancing the degree of awareness and educates drivers on crucial elements such as observation, traffic hazard recognition, car control, following at a safe distance, the circle of safety, positioning the vehicle, correct driving line and use of speed. Defensive Driving Course also conforms to international driver risk management and reduces practices to create safer drivers who actively think about their behaviour and that of other road users.
EDI introduced carbon-emission-free Tesla cars in its training fleet last year. Could you tell us a bit about this initiative?
In 2015, we were the first driving institute to convert 50 training vehicles to Natural Gas Vehicles that run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and today we own 130 CNG vehicles. We are committed towards reducing the carbon footprint and creating a greener future. Our driving lessons on the Tesla have received a great response and 15 students have successfully completed training on Tesla cars.
What initiatives have you undertaken to generate more awareness on road safety?
Our mission of creating safe drivers doesn’t stop with training the drivers, it goes much beyond that. With a comprehensive CSR initiative involving road safety demonstrations, we have successfully championed road and driving safety for over a decade.
The demonstration consists of sophisticated exhibits such as a 360° roll-over car to display a simulation of head-over collision, and the effectiveness and importance of the seat belt, a seat-belt convincer to explain the risks of driving without a seat belt, tyre tread to deeply understand the essentials of a tyre and a child seat to teach the correct child seats suitable for different age groups.
Besides these demonstrations, we understand that educating children at a young age is the best means to build a generation of responsible road users. We thus introduced the Mama, I’m Home campaign. Our award-winning campaign is a customised initiative based on road and traffic safety to educate children between 4 years to 9 years of age.
What makes courses and training at EDI unique?
At EDI, we pride ourselves in providing training of the highest quality and that meets international standards as certified by the AA Driving School-UK and accredited by The Institute of The Motor Industry-UK (IMI) & The Institute of Advanced Motorist-UK (IAM). We are the exclusive driving institute to offer an unique opportunity to drive in the Solo Training yard in Dubai, a safe area where students can drive unaccompanied and gain confidence in their own skills.
Moreover, our instructors are consistently trained at our Instructor Training Centre, which not only enhances and develops their skills but also keeps them abreast with the training techniques of the driving fraternity.