Driver­less car in Dubai gives us hands-off look at fu­ture

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - Nick Web­ster

As the wheel turns and the driver­less Jaguar iPace ac­cel­er­ates away from the traf­fic lights, sit­ting in the pas­sen­ger seat is an un­nerv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and a first on the streets of Dubai.

On the open­ing day of the Roads and Trans­port Author­ity’s Congress for Self-Driv­ing in Dubai, the au­tonomous ve­hi­cle demon­stra­tion of­fered a glimpse into the fu­ture.

Although fully au­tonomous ve­hi­cles are some years away, a pro­to­type al­low­ing a driver­less jour­ney along a pre­pro­grammed route with a safety driver at the wheel took to the roads near Dubai World Trade Cen­tre.

“The ve­hi­cle is one of a kind, but we ex­pect to see more cars like this in fu­ture,” said Al­lan Hal­lan, au­tonomous driv­ing en­gi­neer with Jaguar Land Rover. “How fast that hap­pens de­pends on leg­is­la­tion and cus­tomer ac­cep­tance, not just the tech­nol­ogy.”

A pro­to­type of the fully elec­tric Jaguar iPace was mod­i­fied specif­i­cally for the RTA ex­hi­bi­tion to show how far tech­nol­ogy has de­vel­oped. The car is equipped with radar cam­eras on the front and back, another cam­era for traf­fic-light recog­ni­tion and a roof-mounted GPS re­ceiver.

Cur­rent driver­less ve­hi­cles un­der test have dif­fer­ing lev­els of au­ton­omy.

A level one au­tonomous ve­hi­cle may have driver-as­sist func­tions such as cruise con­trol, while level four al­lows the driver to be do­ing other things, such as sleep­ing or read­ing a book while the car is driv­ing in a des­ig­nated area, such as a sin­gle lane on a mo­tor­way. Driv­ers of a level four au­tonomous car can also re­gain man­ual con­trols at any time.

From there, au­tonomous driv­ing is likely to progress to wider use on in­ner city roads.

Level five ve­hi­cles are the driver­less utopia of travel, with no driv­ing seat, steer­ing wheel or man­ual con­trols. That op­tion is some years away.

“If we were do­ing more driv­ing around Dubai, we would need an aw­ful lot more sen­sors,” said Jim O’Donoghue, a Jaguar safety driver who was on hand to take back con­trol of the iPace should any­thing go wrong.

“We’ve as­sessed this route around Zabeel so we can use min­i­mal sen­sors. It has been chal­leng­ing to take the tech­nol­ogy into an elec­tric car, but we be­lieve this will be the fu­ture of driv­ing. Us­ing an en­gine is eas­ier than an elec­tric mo­tor be­cause au­to­matic brak­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing is a smoother process.”

Fully charged and with air-con­di­tion­ing run­ning to coun­ter­act the in­tense Dubai heat, the iPace has a range of about 250 kilo­me­tres. In cooler cli­mates, such as the UK, it can reach 420km.

Although the driver­less rev­o­lu­tion may be some way off, the RTA en­vis­ages 25 per cent of all trips in Dubai will be au­tonomous by 2030.

Six-seater driver­less elec­tric pods were on show at the two­day con­fer­ence, to re­veal how peo­ple could be trans­ported around the city in fu­ture.

“This tech­nol­ogy will slowly progress over the next five to 10 years,” Mr O’Donoghue said. “We know that 94 per cent of ac­ci­dents are caused by driver er­ror so this will im­prove safety and re­duce con­ges­tion.”

Chris Whi­teoak / The Na­tional

A Jaguar iPace au­tonomous ve­hi­cle with re­search en­gi­neer Jim O’Donoghue in hands-off mode

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