x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Driverless cars are afoot

Could Google really mitigate the risk of jaywalking over the capital's streets? If so, it would no doubt win the gratitude of the nation.

All bets are off: Google's driverless car has hit the streets. 

Better known for mapping uncharted territory or translating obscure texts online, Google has just converted seven Toyota Prius models and sent them off on a 225,308km adventure on Californian roads, as The National's Business section reports today. 

Google's spokesman, Oliver Rickman, bordered on the evangelical as he extolled the car's virtues: "Automation could make cars safer," he said. "More than 1.2 million people are killed every year in traffic. [They can also] reduce the nation's energy consumption by several percentage points; free up substantial time every day - 52 minutes per working American; triple the capacity of the highway system; and enable entirely new models of car sharing."

But it's rather difficult to imagine what sort of a response the cars would receive if hurtling down Dubai's main thoroughfare, Sheikh Zayed Road. The same could be said for Abu Dhabi's Airport Road: could Google really mitigate the risk of jaywalking over the capital's streets? If so, it would no doubt win the gratitude of the nation. 

And all the hype does of course, remind us that Masdar, Abu Dhabi's clean energy city, already has its own version of an electric driverless car up and running at its institute. A trip to California or a trip to the desert; either way, robot-cars are here to stay.