Driverless limousines? Dubai’s RTA to buy 200 electric cars from Tesla

Dubai downtown skyline, Dubai, united arab emirates

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) today announced that it has signed an agreement to buy 200 autonomous-ready electric vehicles from carmaker Tesla, for use as limousines by the Dubai Taxi Corporation.

The city’s new electric limousines will be made up of Tesla’s Model S sedans and Model X SUVs, said the RTA. Tesla will also open a distribution and maintenance office in Dubai.

The emirate has previously set out its driverless aspirations in the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy, which highlights plans to transform 25% of the total journeys made in Dubai into autonomous ones by 2030.

Today’s agreement was signed by Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the RTA, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on the sidelines of the World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai.

“Tesla has been selected for its pioneering endeavors in the manufacturing of electric vehicles,” said Al Tayer.

“The Company is focused on improvement & creativity in autonomous driving as well as the storage of power. Tesla is the sole producer of autonomous deluxe electric vehicles and as part of its efforts to utilize alternative energy sources; it took over Solar City Company.”

Tesla’s Autopilot already offers drivers a number of advanced driving assistance features. In October, the company announced that all of its new cars will be produced with self-driving hardware built in, providing full self-driving capabilities “at a safety level greater than that of a human driver”.

However, this hardware will not be activated until Tesla has carried out further system calibration and the vehicles have cleared any necessary regulatory hurdles. 

Dubai’s investment suggests that, longer-term, the vehicles will be used as self-driving limousines, paving the way for the wider use of driverless taxis and mobility-on-demand services across the city.

Tesla has “improved the autonomous driving systems by migrating from semi-autonomous driving to a fully autonomous driving environment; thus obviating the need for a human driver,” said Al Tayer.

A poll in December found that a majority of Dubai residents are enthusiastic about the prospect of driverless cars, although – as in other countries – many also harbour concerns about the safety of self-driving technology.