Dubai has a long list of smart city initiatives that are developing at full pace. Recently, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced the implementation of 40 initiatives. All of these aim at becoming the future mobility drivers in Dubai.
This year, RTA celebrated the month of February as ‘the month of innovation.’ This is when the department unveiled a plethora of smart mobility initiatives. At the same time, it held a lab titled ‘The Future of Dubai Mobility 2030-2071.’ Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, attended the event as the chairperson. He described the map for future mobility in Dubai. The lab emphasised on the seven principles of future cities. These include governance, livelihood, mobility, urban design, resource utilisation, urban economies, and urban competitiveness.
The mobility landscape of Dubai is taking an innovative shape. Hence, its role is being observed as central in shaping the future of global mobility. The launch of all 40 initiatives is expected this year. And as Mattar Al Tayer stated, “the drive will continue up to the UAE Centennial 2071.”
While we need to wait until these initiatives turn up, in this blog, we are delving into the ones already launched. They are new, unique and interesting!
Buses Readily Available
The RTA has launched a Bus On-Demand Service in select areas of the city. Al Barsha 1, Dubai Internet City, International City, The Greens, and the Dubai Silicon Oasis localities are currently availing the service.
Before implementation of the service, RTA conducted a trial which proved to be successful. While the trial phase was on, the department tested the efficiency parameters like the response time, transit time and accessibility to passengers. Additionally, a survey was conducted at metro stations to explore the views, opinions and needs of the residents about the service.
Further, the survey also covered other factors. The investigation was carried out to check car ownerships and nearest public transport stations in specific localities. It also included measuring the distance of transport stops from homes and other places. Affordability, convenience, safety, and wait time were also considered.
The service is also based on other factors. Some of these include optimal use of land, average age group income, and population density. All put together, RTA embraced global practices predominating in countries like Finland, Germany, the USA and Spain.
From the technology point of view, geospatial data has been used to make the service readily available to residents. RTA tapped into the data of all the localities where this service has been launched. This data helps passengers track the bus movement until it reaches their pick up location.
To avail the service, passengers need to download and register for the ‘Bus on Demand’ app. Through this app, a passenger can book the service and make the payment online like any other e-taxi service.
The app helps users spot the nearest pickup location within their locality. It also shows its arrival time and time it will take to reach the pickup point. Even if only one passenger requests for the service, the bus can pick up other users on the same route. This on-demand bus service is helping overcome the first and last-mile challenge. Now, the walking distance and wait time of passengers has significantly reduced.
From the environmental perspective, the bus is small in size and thus consumes less fuel. The smart scheduling system curbs wasted kilometres as well as private journeys. Overall, it is also contributing to reducing carbon emissions.
Mobility For The ‘People of Determination’
The UAE refers to the physically and mentally challenged people as ‘people of determination.’ The idea has been put forward as an honour for their achievements in different fields. So, for the people of determination, the country has launched several services that cater to their special needs. The focus has been kept in areas including education, health, jobs and mobility.
The smart city of Dubai, in particular, taxis are run by Dubai Taxi Corporation which meets the needs of people of determination 24×7. It covers all areas of the city and only well-trained drivers are appointed for these special taxis.
Being the transport mode of the people with special needs, the taxis are equipped with special lifts for wheelchairs. Other amenities include the artificial respiratory system, a wheelchair onboard and additional seats.
Furthermore, Dubai Metro and public buses also have special provision. People of determination with personalised NOL cards can use these public transports for free. The metro station in Dubai is fitted with facilities that guide visually impaired people, hearing-impaired individuals and for other people of determination. These facilities include tactile floor paths, audio notices, escalators with hand rests, and automatic exit and entry doors. Wheelchairs in the carriage are available in close vicinity to the door.
Similarly, public buses are also outfitted with all means of convenience and accessibility. More recently, a free parking service has been introduced in Dubai for senior citizens and the people of determination. The RTA has fully automated the public parking service. This enables the special users to apply for the service on the RTA website for free.
Sky Pods – The Future Transport
Lately, RTA has signed an agreement with the UK-based BeemCar Ltd to develop the futuristic transport system called ‘sky pods.’ The system is based on suspended transport technology with Beemcar describing it as “a cross between a monorail and ski lift.”
RTA has entered the agreement to meet the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy. It intends to make 25% of journeys in Dubai autonomous by 2030. Each sky pod is a four-seater suspended from a driveway unit that rests inside a hollow, lightweight beam. Linear motors power the pod, providing the forward propulsion and braking. It can travel at a speed of 50 km/hr on the beams.
These beams will be placed in a network above the traffic in a criss-cross manner. As per reports, Dubai’s sky pod network will cover 15 km with 21 stations. It will have the capacity to transport 8400 passengers per hour in the same direction.
With such self-driving mobility initiatives, Dubai leaders predict that transportation costs will come down by 44%. It will result in savings up to AED 900 million a year. Even more, it will reduce environmental pollution by 12% which will contribute to AED 1.5 billion as annual savings.
Currently, the RTA is testing a number of different autonomous mobility options. It also developed an integrated transport system incorporating walking, cycling and riding.
First City In The Middle East To Use Open Data
Dubai has become the first city in the Middle East region to run real-time bus timetable updates on Google Maps. The RTA in partnership with Google Inc is using open data in public transport. So, the city emirate has entered the list of 100 smart cities across the globe already having this service in place.
In Dubai, Google will provide instant updates on bus schedules. With this, passengers will always stay informed about the bus timetables. This is particularly important when departure or arrival is expected to be late.
The real-time updates will allow people to plan their journeys without any hassle. It will also reduce the potential complaints from changes in timetables for inevitable reasons. This is as stated by Khaled Al Awadi, Director of Transportation Systems at RTA’s Public Transport Agency.