Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: You could soon be hopping on a self-driving vehicle for your first and last mile trips in Dubai as the winning vehicle of Dubai World Challenge for Self Driving Transport is all set to enter the city’s public transport fleet.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) on Sunday announced 17 finalists for the first global self driving transport challenge across four categories, with the winner of the first category getting to be part of Dubai’s first and last mile fleet, besides walking away with a million dollars.

Announced in February last year, the preliminary round of the challenge saw 65 participants from across the world including industry leaders, start-ups as well as international and local universities.

Part of Dubai’s strategy to broaden the horizon for self-driving or driverless technology, the $5.1 million (Dh18.71) challenge is the first of its kind global contest that aims to make Dubai a hub for smart transport solutions.

“The Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport aims to broaden the use of self-driving transport. It seeks to encourage the leading companies to cope with the existing challenges of the First and Last Mile, traffic congestions and the drop in the public transport ridership. The driverless transport has become a key pillar of RTA’s strategy, and we are making every endeavour to make it a reality in Dubai,” said Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, announcing the finalists.

He added that the RTA is currently working with federal authorities to develop regulations and legislations covering the use of self-driving vehicles on the UAE roads, which will be ready in time for the roll out of winning vehicles of the competition.

Focusing on the first and last mile solutions, the first edition of the event, which is jointly being held by the RTA and Khalifa University, will see the participation of the industry leaders such as, French firms Navya and EasyMile, Drive.ai from the USA, Westfield from the UK, Baidu from China and 2getthere from the Netherlands which have been selected for the finals that will begin early next year.

The start-ups selected for the finals include a UAE-based firm Derq, Sensible from Finland and IAuto from Taiwan.

International universities and institutions such as Friee Berlin University, Carnegie Mellon University from the US, Spain’s Intelligent Systems Lab and Australia’s University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will battle it out in the finals.

The finals will also see four local varsities, Dubai University, UAE University, Al Ain University of Science and Technology and Abu Dhabi University, showcasing their fully developed self-driving vehicles.

Trials for the finalists will begin early next year at three locations in Dubai and an international panel of judges will assess the vehicles based on a range of standards such as technical soundness, business operability as well as their innovative operating solutions.

“This is the biggest platform for all the innovators in self-driving technology to showcase their products and the competition is really tough and judging is not a simple task. The challenge will definitely help scale up the technology from the testing level to the level of operations as a public transport solution,” said Steven Shladover, Progamme Manager, Mobility at the University of California, who is also the head of jury for the self driving challenge.

The tests for all the categories will be held from February to August 2019 and the winners will be announced in October 2019 during the first edition of the Dubai World Conference for Self Driving Transport.

Type of tests

• Durability and reliability

• Ability to drive under traffic conditions simulating the reality

• Power efficiency and environmental compatibility

• Electronic safety and security

• User’s experience


Industry leaders

• Prizes worth $3 million

• Exclusive pilot operation in Dubai


• Prizes worth $1.5 million

• Entrance to one of the cycle of Dubai Future Accelerators Programme

Universities and Institutions

• Prizes worth $300,000 each for UAE-based and international universities