| 12 October, 2017

Now turn your 'regular' Dubai car into driverless one, cheaply

Luxury car in Dubai City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 7th May 2015

Luxury car in Dubai City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 7th May 2015


A Dubai startup will retrofit your existing car for under Dh36,700.

Want to be among the first few to own a driverless car in Dubai, but are afraid of burning a hole in your pocket? A Dubai-based startup claims to have just the solution for you.

Automation solution company Acacus says it can transform vehicles into driverless for fleet operators as well as for individuals in the UAE, on the cheap as compared to what a new, driverless car will cost.

Game for a free ride in a driverless car?

"Our goal is to retrofit the existing cars under $10,000 (Dh36,700). We have a limited number of vehicles that can be retrofitted now, but we are looking to increase it," said Talal ben Halim, managing director and partner, Acacus.

"Technically, it is possible in any vehicle, but our preference is more specific for those vehicles that have electronic brakes and power-steering so that we can control the vehicle with ease. We are starting with Toyota Prius, Kia Soul and others that have already built-in electronic systems," he said.

The company is currently displaying its retrofitted vehicle at the Gitex Technology Week at the Dubai World Trade in Zabeel Hall. Set up in 2013, the firm has a development office in Jordan and California and is selling solutions in Germany, Italy and Serbia. Acacus won the first prize of $100,000 at Intense Gitex pitch showdown in 2016.

Dubai is revving up for a driverless future?

The company started a trial run in Dubai before Gitex Technology Week in closed parking areas where there is no traffic.

"Technically, we can transform the vehicle for anyone. Our target initially is for fleet managers as it makes best business sense for them. For individuals, it's more of a luxury and gimmick, 'Oh, I don't want to drive but I can get the car drive for me'. I think it's quite a few years before it becomes mainstream. Technically, it will work but the biggest market value is from fleet management firms as it saves them money from day 1," Ben Halim said.

As per the vision laid down by UAE, Dubai's autonomous mobility strategy is expecting to generate Dh22 billion per year, reduce mobility spending by 44 per cent, and curb demand for parking by 50 per cent. Autonomous vehicles will increase productivity by 13 per cent which will be achieved by reducing travel time. This technology will also help reduce accident by 12 per cent.

Self-driving cars: Are we there yet?

Ben Halim noted that, at present, it's not possible to drive autonomous vehicles on local roads here as the regulations are being put in place by the Government of Dubai.

"We are working with the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai to ensure that we comply with regulations that are being put in place. We are running tests in areas like parking lots, closed road areas that don't have any safety issues in terms of other vehicles. We expect the autonomous vehicles to hit roads in a year or two. There are fleet management companies that are asking us when it will be legal because they want to commit it now and purchase solutions," he said during an interview with Khaleej Times at Gitex Technology Week.

Fleet management companies, he revealed, can save up 60 per cent on costs. "When you retrofit a vehicle to make it autonomous, you don't require a driver. In Dubai, the driver with all his medical and other associated charges will cost around Dh4,000 a month. But our cost will be a fraction of that per month," he pointed out.

"If you are a fleet manager, you don't have to buy a new fleet. You can use existing fleet by retrofitting it to make cars autonomous. Then you can decide which vehicle is the right one for delivery with the minimum use of vehicles. Before making it autonomous, we were saving companies 30 per cent with regard to the number of vehicles required. But with the autonomous system, the cost of maintaining fleet will go down further because you don't have to worry about the driver and related licencing costs," Ben Halim added.

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