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ANALYSIS

GCC major player in global race to the future of mobility

DUBAI, December 7, 2023

As autonomous and electric mobility gain momentum, the GCC is rising as a global contender, with the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia making an impact on the arena of future of mobility and rolling out strategies to develop the transport of tomorrow, said an expert.
 
Not long ago, self-driving vehicles, delivery by robot, and electric cars were the work of Hollywood producers and childhood imagination, not of real-world experts at the forefront of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). But times have changed, and in the realm of technology, change happens fast, remarked Achraf Joumaa, the Principal at Arthur D. Little Middle East, a leading management consulting firm. 
 
In recent years, phenomenal advancements in science, technology, and government aspirations have not just brought us a step closer to autonomous travel and e-mobility, but have fired up the engines of a journey that could fundamentally change the way we get around, he stated.
 
Autonomous Travel
 
Admittedly, autonomous mobility has endured a shaky few years, with harsh market realities stemming from a combination of Covid-19, slow implementation of related technologies, and semiconductor shortages. 
 
But bullish financial forecasts and several predictions envisage a global market value running into the trillions of dollars by the dawn of the next decade, said Joumaa. 
 
What’s more, autonomous vehicles (AV) are already on the road - so much so, that key industry players foresee commercialisation of the service by 2024, with forecasts predicting near-to-full automation (level 5) by 2035, he stated, citing data from Arthur D. Little (ADL).
 
Globally, autonomous mobility maturity is still at its early stages, based on a recent study by ADL. Yet, while jurisdictions like the US, EU, China, and Singapore are leading in AV market readiness, GCC countries are presenting themselves as very strong contenders. 
 
Rising to challenges
 
And if there’s one thing the Middle East does well, it is rise to a challenge. In a matter of decades, the GCC states have engineered unprecedented economic transformation, creating infrastructure and services that are not just world class, but world pioneering, stated Joumaa. 
 
Now, with a raft of AV use cases starting to emerge, there is every chance that the same will apply to autonomous mobility.
 
The UAE has been at the forefront of the region’s autonomous mobility drive for several years, with the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy aiming to transform 25% of the city’s total transportation to autonomous mode by 2030. 
 
Already, three editions of the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport have taken place, and the emirate plans to launch a robo-taxi cruise vehicle in December this year, followed by an aerial taxi in early 2026. 
 
Saudi Arabia is also making significant headway and its future trajectory is pivoting well, setting the kingdom on course to play a leading role on the global stage, said Joumaa. 
 
As part of national aspirations for the land transport sector, strategic initiatives are being contemplated to leapfrog ahead of other countries, and the Saudi cities of the future have been designed with autonomy in mind, with volocopters, robo-taxis and autonomous pods all in the mix, he added.



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