Dubai may opt to delay launch of driverless flying taxis

Safety certification process underway, hoping to complete by July, says RTA chief
By Parag Deulgaonkar
Mon 27 Feb 2017 02:25 PM

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said on Monday it will not commence commercial service of driverless flying taxis until it gets a safety certification.

Earlier this month, the RTA in collaboration with China’s Ehang Company announced it had carried the first test run of an autonomous aerial vehicle capable of carrying a human and would put it in operation by July.

“Safety is our priority. The flying cars need to be certified before we put them into commercial operations,” Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of RTA, said after launching the 2017-2021 digital strategy.

“We are working on the certification process and have set up a committee. We hope to launch the service on a limited basis by July only if the certification procedure is completed and it is 100 percent safe,” he added.

The RTA is also in talks with UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the federal, autonomous body set up to oversee aviation-related activities in the country, for completion of the certification process.

The driverless flying taxis are part of Dubai government’s 2030 initiative, unveiled in April 2016, which aims to have 25 percent of the emirate’s transport to be autonomous by 2030 and generate economic revenues and savings of up to $5.99 billion (AED22 billion) a year.

Al Tayer said the RTA is testing the aerial vehicles but will soon set up a budget to buy these autonomous vehicles before starting the service.

“At present, we are doing a trial run. In order to begin our commercial operations, we will need to give them [Ehang] a production timeline for 2017, 2018 and 2019,” he added.

The EHANG184 vehicle is fitted with a touchscreen to the front of the passenger seat displaying a map of all destinations in the form of dots and has preset routes from which the rider can choose a destination. The vehicle will then start automatically, take off and cruise to the set destination before descending and landing in a specific spot.

The vehicle is fitted with eight main propellers, and in case of any failure in the first propeller, there would be seven other propellers ready to complete the flight.

A ground control centre will monitor and control the entire operation, the RTA has said.

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