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Autonomous vehicles will soon become a reality in UAE, with the country becoming the first in the Middle East and the second globally to test self-driving cars on the streets with the approval of a temporary license to test self-driving vehicles on the roads.

This landmark announcement will bring a revolutionary change in the future of the automobile and technology industry, with both being so central to our society and economy – so much part of our everyday life – the reality of autonomous vehicles will alter our lives in the most remarkable ways.

Developing the future of transport, vehicles and the systems require the entire ecosystem to be working in tandem with each other, this translates to intense collaboration between innovators, automobile manufacturers, telecoms, and government departments, among others.

With the region’s first 5G autonomous vehicle shuttle bus to hit the public roads of Ajman last month, an initiative led by the government accelerator AjmanX and Etisalat was in line with the country’s long-term ambition of the leadership’s digital journey and national agenda seeking to place the country among the top in the world in autonomous transport enabled by the 5G network and advanced technologies.

H.E. Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, director of Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, said, “Today Ajman is one of the most advanced emirates in terms of harnessing technologies in all aspects of work and life for our residents. As we are constantly exploring opportunities to shape more sustainable, resilient and human-centric urban mobility systems, this exclusive Etisalat 5G powered autonomous shuttle bus forms a significant part of our digital transformation initiative bringing the latest in technology and innovation to the emirate. With the country all set to celebrate its golden jubilee and the UAE leadership’s vision for the future of autonomous transportation we will continue to work towards the country’s digital goals contributing to the growth of the emirate and economy.”

Autonomous ecosystem coming together

Collaboration is key, right from regulations to connectivity, mobility and the human factor have to all come together to develop an ecosystem that enables integration and is able to deliver the solution.

“In order to launch the 5G autonomous shuttle by AjmanX, Etisalat worked closely with a team of experts on mobility in creating the solution design with every partner playing their part that is the OEM autonomous vehicle, the cellular vehicle to everything technology [C-V2X], the  5G connectivity and the automotive Artificial Intelligence (AI). In addition to deploying the network, Etisalat has built a partner ecosystem for this project with technology companies like Navya, IoN, Derg and Acacus so to deliver a robust autonomous car proposition that contributed to the success of the 5G autonomous shuttle bus in Ajman,” explained Masood M Sharif Mahmood, CEO, Etisalat UAE.

In the project, Navya, specialists in autonomous mobility systems in partnership with ION contributed as an autonomous car OEM while Derq specialised in vehicle to everything (V2X) communication and Acacus with their knowhow in automotive AI brought their joint expertise on one platform to enable the implementation of the 5G shuttle bus in Ajman.

With the support of the Ajman government, local police and transport authorities, this was a great opportunity to bring the future of technology and successful deployment of mobility use cases into becoming a public utility service with the best experience for all citizens and tourists visiting the emirate.

Working towards an autonomous future

Infrastructure plays an integral role in empowering the future of the network especially for Internet of Things (IoT), mobility and autonomous technologies. In terms of building this future, Etisalat has continuously made investments over the years becoming the fastest in the world and providing a platform like the 5G, the latest low power wide area network (LPWAN) networks, and long term evolution for machines (LTE-M) to connect vehicles to traffic regulators, to traffic signals, to buildings and to all elements enhancing road safety as well. This is significant for the connected car market, telematic solutions and to emergency call (eCall) which is a new system to enhance the speed of response when road accidents occur, whereby vehicles fitted with this new technology, are connected via eSIM solutions provided by Etisalat.

With 5G, there are already other implementations in smart cities, ports and other industries with dedicated 5G private networks that support ultra-low latency features considered to be the prerequisites for any autonomous transport.

Etisalat has worked on a variety of autonomous projects over a period of time. Mahmood said, “To cite the free trade zones as a use case, Etisalat has worked on delivering autonomous solutions which will be soon replicated to university campuses in the country. In ports, which are mission critical use cases, the project involved remote management and operations from anywhere in the country with UAE as a base to be able to manage a national emergency“.

This is only the beginning as the market is evolving at a rapid pace moving to other people transport and verticals targeting use cases like the delivery of goods, warehouse logistics, port telematics, and also including robotics and drones.

Etisalat will continue working closely with automobile OEMs, local governments and transport authorities across emirates in UAE, to bridge the gap for residents with these technologies becoming a way of life and a gateway into the future creating a safer and healthier society.

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