Saudi Arabia launches trial for first autonomous vehicle
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Saudi Arabia launches trial for first autonomous electric vehicle

Saudi Arabia launches trial for first autonomous electric vehicle

The launch is one of the initial steps toward the development of AV legislation, regulations and supporting systems in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia launches autonomous vehicle trial

Saudi Arabia has launched the trial phase of ‘Dhahaina’ (Smart), a new autonomous vehicle (AV), in Riyadh.

The launch event for the country’s first self-driving electric vehicle was intended to boost awareness and adoption of AV technology.

With this trial, the ministry also aims to reduce the number of transport-related accidents and fatalities, improve intracity mobility, and reduce the impact of the transportation sector on the environment.

The launch is seen as one of the initial steps toward the development of AV legislation, regulations and related systems in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia embraces smart mobility

The AV initiative is in line with the Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services’ aim to provide solutions for smart mobility and anticipate the future development of the market in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Minister of Transport and Logistics, Dr Rumaih Al-Rumaih highlighted the ministry’s embrace of innovative transportation modes, and its plans to utilise advanced technologies in the transportation and logistics industry in Saudi Arabia, as per the objectives set in the National Transport and Logistics Strategy.

The AV inauguration took place at Riyadh Business Front, which is owned by the ROSHN Group.

The company promotes sustainability by offering pedestrian-friendly streets and eco-friendly modes of transportation for commuting within its communities, while providing connections to a wide range of public and private transportation options that connect its customers to the wider city.

Oussama Kabbani, the group chief development officer at ROSHN Group, expressed his enthusiasm for collaborating with the ministry, said: “The ‘Dhahaina’ initiative is a significant leap in the technical development of transportation in the kingdom.

“This trial aligns with ROSHN’s commitment to humanising the civil experience and adapting technology to serve people within the high-quality real estate environments of our communities  across the kingdom.”

National regulatory framework for AVs

Al-Rumaih also emphasised that these trials align with the Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services’ ongoing efforts to establish a national regulatory framework for AVs in collaboration with relevant entities.

The primary objective is to unify efforts and establish appropriate regulatory frameworks to enable AVs while prioritising user safety, simplifying procedures, and attracting investors.

The ministry is working to enable and incorporate various modern technologies across all transport sectors, including land, rail, sea, air, and logistics services.

It also aims to develop suitable regulatory frameworks for each technology, conduct phased experiments, empower the private sector, attract investors, and enhance the technical capacity of the workforce by partnering with universities and educational institutions.

Focus on urban air mobility systems

In other news, NEOM announced a $175m Series E investment in Volocopter, a leader in urban air mobility last November.

Read: NEOM invests $175m in urban air mobility provider Volocopter

The investment builds on the NEOM-Volocopter joint venture (JV) launched in December 2021.

The JV will operate electric air taxi services in NEOM to connect various regions including The Line, Oxagon and Trojena in Saudi Arabia.

Air taxi and vertical logistics services will be fully integrated with the overall multi-modal and zero-emission public transit system in Neom.

The JV is the sole operator of initial public transit routes across NEOM.

It will enable an open eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) ecosystem for vertical mobility services including logistics, emergency response, and tourism.

Electric air taxis are a significant factor of NEOM’s mission to implement a truly sustainable and seamlessly connected multi-modal mobility system powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.
Meanwhile, Dubai is one step closer to welcoming “flying taxis” by 2026.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved the prototype design of aerial taxi vertiports developed by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), on the sidelines of the recent World Government Summit 2023.
Driverless vehicles RTA-and-Cruise-Start-Data-CollectionThe RTA’s aerial taxi initiative aligns with the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy, aimed at transforming 25 per cent of total mobility journeys in Dubai into driverless journeys by 2030.
The RTA is working closely with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, General Civil Aviation Authority, and Dubai Air Navigation Services to create a one-of-a-kind comprehensive framework for the operation of such vehicles in Dubai.

More recently, RTA and Cruise, a self-driving technology company, commenced data collection and testing of its technology for Dubai’s traffic signals, signage, and drivers’ behaviour using five Chevy Bolt-based autonomous vehicles in the Jumeirah 1 area.

This initiative marks a fundamental step toward the launch of self-driving ridehail services in Dubai.

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