But how did we fare..?

The UAE has been pretty transparent about its ambitions to pursue edge-courting technology and foster the development of ‘Smart Cities’. This cyber-pioneer spirit has resulted, and continues to result, in incredible innovations being developed and implemented in the country; a sensation that we genuinely are living in the future; and having to download so many apps it feels like you’re crossing multiple time zones whilst horizontally scrolling through them. A small price to pay.

Modes of transport, particularly taxis, seem to attract a disproportionately strong focus from the enhancement projects. Flying taxis, driverless taxis, and of course flying driverless taxis.

The future is here

The Smart Mobility Project, operating on Yas and Saadiyat Islands, currently sits with a fleet of three Automatic Rapid Transit vehicles (tams), eight autonomous Robo Taxi vehicles, and six Robo Minibuses. It’s a programme co-authored by the Integrated Transport Centre and Bayanat.AI, specialists in geospatial intelligence.

Smart vehicles are currently doing rounds of Yas Island and come fitted with a range of Q-Branch-car-sounding gadgetry including LiDER. They can seat seven people and are making stops at nine strategic locations on Yas Island including “W hotel, Yas Water World, Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World”. And best of all — the service is free.

We picked up one of the vehicles currently doing Saadiyat laps, and this is what we thought.

How fast does it go?

Nothing happens at a particularly fast pace on Saadiyat Island. And that leisurely canter through life is a massive part of the attraction. The easy, super chill Island kinda life — demands a no nitrous, no handbrake turn, no taking the vehicle off any sweet jumps policy, to which the Txai abides. It topped out at around 20kph, and was an incredibly smooth ride.

Does it feel safe?

In addition to its modest pace, the autonomous vehicle we jumped on had seat belts and would literally slow down or pull over every time (which along those quiet Saadiyat roads was not very often) a car came close. So it all felt incredibly safe. At no point did we entertain intrusive thoughts about being kidnapped by AI-made-sentient, and taken to a hotel parking lot so the robot taxi could practise wheel screeching doughnuts. Which incidentally, sounds a lot like it could be the leaked synopsis for a movie called, Fast and FurAIous.

How many people can travel on it?

You can squeeze about seven people in there, sitting down, safely.

How do you hail these vehicles? And how do you tell them where to go?

As mentioned above, the ones here are running predesignated loops of the islands with scheduled stops, so in fairness, it’s more like a bus service than a taxi.

Is it truly driverless?

Full disclosure, there was a gentleman in the ‘taxi’ but he assured us that his role was more of a supervisor than a driver, and essentially just for the transiting public’s peace of mind.

Images: What’s On Archive