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Cruise to launch its driverless robotaxis in Dubai in 2023

The emirate will be the first market outside the US to operate trips using the autonomous vehicles

Cruise, the self-driving vehicle company backed by General Motors and Honda, will launch its first international robotaxi service outside the US in Dubai in 2023, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said on Twitter.

“Dubai will be the first outside America to operate self-driving Cruise vehicles, in fulfilment of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's vision that Dubai is always in first place and the best city to live and work,” Sheikh Hamdan said.

“Our goal is to convert 25 per cent of the total transportation trips in Dubai to self-driving trips through various means of transportation by 2030,” he added.

Sheikh Hamdan discussed the future of mobility with Jeff Bleach, chief legal officer of General Motors-Cruise. He also attended a signing ceremony of the strategic partnership between Cruise and the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

The entities aim to have Cruise’s self-driving vehicles running in Dubai from 2023, with 4,000 vehicles on the road by 2030.

Dubai will aim to reduce transportation costs by Dh900 million ($245.2m) through its adoption of autonomous driving, Sheikh Hamdan tweeted.

Using these vehicles could help the emirate to grow revenue by Dh18bn per year by increasing the efficiency of transport use, while saving Dh1.5 billion through a reduction of environmental pollution by 12 per cent a year, he added.

The robotaxi service in Dubai will use the Cruise Origin, an all-electric shuttle-like vehicle first unveiled in January last year.

The Cruise Origin has no steering wheel and seats will face each other. The vehicles, in Cruise's orange and black colour scheme, will “accommodate the needs of an individual, with personal USB ports” the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder Kyle Vogt said during its launch. Capabilities are also being added to allow it to travel at motorway speeds.

The Cruise Origin is due to go into production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant from next year. The car maker has spent nearly $2.2bn refurbishing the plant to switch from combustion motors to batteries and electric engines.

Cruise, which has raised more than $7.4bn over the last three years, was valued at $30bn in January. Its investors include SoftBank, Honda, GM, T Rowe Price Group and Microsoft.

The company aims to launch a robotic taxi service to compete against the likes of Uber and Lyft starting from its hometown San Francisco.

It said that it will begin sending vehicles without anybody behind the wheel onto San Francisco roads in December last year after gaining permission from California's state government to test fully driverless cars in October.

The company, which was bought by GM in 2016, had previously set a goal of using driverless cars in a ride-hailing service by the end of 2019 but the roll-out has taken longer than expected.

Other tech giants, such as Amazon and Google owner Alphabet, are also backing autonomous-electric initiatives that are focused on mass transport.

Alphabet’s Waymo is operating a commercial self-driving taxi service, whereas Amazon-backed Zoox is working to create an autonomous ride-hailing fleet. Industry analysts said Amazon could also use automated cars to deliver goods to customers.

Many local companies are experimenting with self-driving technologies in the UAE.

In September, the Dubai-based Al Habtoor group teamed up with Israeli car technology company Mobileye with a view to operating a fleet of autonomous vehicles and robotaxis in Dubai by 2023.

Transport chiefs in Abu Dhabi intend to allow driverless taxis in the emirate from this year. The Department of Municipalities and Transport is partnering with Bayanat, part of the G42 group, on a trial for the use of autonomous vehicles. The first phase of the project will feature three self-driving vehicles providing free transport services from hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and offices at Yas Mall.

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