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Tue 18 Oct 2016 01:52 PM

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Dubai's Careem says to launch driverless pod tests 'within a year'

Region’s app based car booking service says pods are currently in the research and development phase

Dubai's Careem says to launch driverless pod tests 'within a year'

Careem, the region’s app based car booking service, has announced that it plans to launch tests on its driverless pods system which is being developed in partnership with NEXT Future Transportation Inc.

The pods are electric, driverless and can move individually or by attaching themselves to other pods, to form a bus-like structure allowing passengers to move freely from one pod to another, the company said in a statement.

The pods are designed to operate as a mass transportation system whereby passengers can conveniently be picked up on demand and dropped off to different locations, as the pods link and detach accordingly, "creating an efficient, safe and environmentally friendly mode of transportation", it added.

Bassel Al Nahloui – VP of Business Development and Government Relations, Careem, said: “Our pods are currently in the R&D phase and within a year we will be launching the test phase, whereby fully functional prototypes will be tested in restricted areas.”  

The partnership was announced after Dubai ruler 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, smart and driverless by 2030. 

“As one of the fastest growing tech startups in the MENA region, Careem prides itself on innovation and therefore this strategic partnership with a forward-thinking company such as NEXT is nothing short of incredible,” said Al Nahloui.

Careem recently partnered with the RTA to make public transportation such as taxis, more accessible by eventually making it available on their apps.

“We have invented the world’s finest autonomous mass transit solution, and as we look to operationalise, 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,” said Emmanuele Spera, founder & CEO, NEXT Future Transportation, Inc.

“We look forward to continuing our journey to bring advanced transportation technologies and practices to the region.”

In July, Careem announced a new research and development (R&D) strategy and plans for global expansion.

Over the next five years, Careem said it will invest $100 million in R&D, which includes growing its team in the UAE and Pakistan, and opening new R&D centres in Egypt and Germany.

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