UAE to trial self-driving taxis on Abu Dhabi F1 island
A fleet of driverless cars, named TXAI, will hit the roads later this month with the first trial being conducted on Yas Island, the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It will be the first autonomous driving project to be trialed on the streets of capital.
TXAI has been developed by Bayanat, a geospatial, data analytics, and AI company in the UAE.
"This project is one of the bold regional steps in employing accurate data-driven artificial intelligence techniques within the transport network," Falah Al-Ahbabi, chairman of the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) told The National.
The trial will see five of the vehicles ferry passengers between nine stops, including hotels, restaurants, shopping centres, and offices.
Passengers will use an app to book taxis.
The cars will then be rolled out to other locations in Abu Dhabi with more vehicles added to the fleet.
During the trial period, the cars will be driverless, however, a "safety officer" will sit behind the wheel.
"The safety officer will monitor the autonomous driving operation and take over the vehicle in the case of an emergency to ensure the safety of both the passengers and the vehicle," according to TXAI’s website.
Furthermore, throughout the test period, the driverless service will be provided free of charge.
"DMT is continuously working with its partners in Bayanat and Miral to test the safety of the vehicles, in addition to overseeing the operations to ensure that a state-of-the-art service is provided in a safe and distinctive manner, and to ensure compliance with the UAE traffic laws and regulations,” Ahbabi said.
Driverless cars have been the subject of numerous ethics debates regarding culpability and responsibility in the event of a crash, or risks to human life.
If the trial is deemed successful, the autonomous firm intends to roll out the driverless cars to the rest of the city but it is not known how this would impact the city's taxi drivers who rely heavily on fares.
The average wage of a taxi driver in Abu Dhabi is AED 2,792 (£568) per month, according to recruitment site indeed.com. This is almost ten times lower than the average wage for the city's residents, which adds up to around AED 21,000 (£4,278) per month.