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Dubai to test self-driving electric transport pods

Next Future Transportation pods for Dubai
Next Future Transportation pods for Dubai. Source: RTA

As already announced in July 2016 CAREEM, the region’s leading app based booking service, will bring battery-powered, self-driving electric pods to the MENA region by a strategic partnership with NEXT Future Transportation, Inc.

The partnership came on the heels of His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s announcement of the launch of the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, a new initiative aimed at making 25 percent of all transportation trips in Dubai be smart and driverless by 2030. The initiative requires innovation, experimentation and the participation of companies working to transform the current transportation industry across the UAE.

The pods, which are electric and driverless, can drive individually or by attaching themselves to other pods to form a bus-like structure where travelers will be able to move freely from one pod to another. This technology will be the first of its kind in the region, and the partnership between NEXT and CAREEM will bring a new wave of transportation infrastructure to the Middle East that is safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The pods are designed to operate as a mass transportation system that shuttles people from door to door. They will pick passengers up on demand and link together in bus-like form on the journey to get each person from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.

The NX1 pods are designed to travel short and medium distances in dedicated lanes at an average speed of 20 kph and can be coupled in 15 to 20 seconds or detached in five seconds. Each measures 2.87 m in length, 2.24 m in width and 2.82 m in height and weighs about 1,500 kg. They have a capacity for 10 riders, with six seated and four standing, and can operate for three continuous hours before a six-hour recharge.

According to RTA director general and chairman Mattar Al Tayer the prototypes of these units are manufactured in Italy and shipped to Dubai. These pods run on a virtual pre-configured and programmed lane and are overseen by the operational system. The RTA said the pods are fitted with cameras and electromechanical technologies for the coupling and decoupling process, which can be activated in-motion. There are also safety systems to prevent crashes.

Together, CAREEM and NEXT are co-innovating to help solve some of today’s more troubling mass transit problems, including minimizing congestion and pollution. Additionally, by providing personalized pick-up and drop off of users, the companies will help make the daily commutes of all UAE citizens more efficient and quick.

“We are honored to create a strategic partnership with such an innovative company as NEXT,” said Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder & managing director of CAREEM. “As the pioneering operators of the finest fleet in the UAE, we are acutely aware of the ground realities of intra-city and inter-city transport. While serving the immediate needs of the region, we are also cognizant of the importance of innovating for a greener and more delightful future. NEXT offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit. We look forward to working closely with NEXT to pioneer their solutions in the region.”

“NEXT is truly excited about our new relationship with CAREEM,” said Emmanuele Spera, founder & CEO of NEXT Future Transportation, Inc. “We have invented the world’s finest autonomous mass transit solution, and as we look to operationalize, we need a partner that will provide operational depth and scale. CAREEM is a perfect partner from our perspective given their vision, credibility and success in transforming transportation across the MENA region. We look forward to continuing our journey to bring advanced transportation technologies and practices to the region.”

People across the globe continue to contemplate the future of transportation and how it might be improved in terms of efficiency, experience, and easing congestion. The vision of NEXT combined with CAREEM’s early successes in delivering millions of rides with tens of thousands of ‘Captains’, or drivers, since its launch in 2012 will result in the delivery of a more efficient mode of driverless public transportation.

Sources: NEXT Future Transportation, CAREEM, gulfbusiness.com, arabianbusiness.com

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