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Sustainable transportation and smart cities, the Dubai model

By Matar Al Tayer

The International Energy Agency reports that the transport sector accounts for 23 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse gases emissions. The Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and keep the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is unlikely to be achieved without a major contribution from the transport sector. Sustainable transport systems contribute significantly in promoting the three main pillars of sustainable development: Environmental, social and economic.
The shift towards smart cities is thus a perfect solution to overcome the challenges cities face while they grow and develop, and turn them into sustainable environment-friendly places. This shift is pivotal, especially since around 70 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live in urban areas by 2050.
Redesigning the transport systems within the framework of sustainable transportation has become a pressing need to face current and future challenges and limit carbon emissions associated with the global increase in energy use by the transport sector. The US Energy Information Administration estimates this increase at 1.4 per cent annually between 2012 and 2040.
The transition to smart cities contributes to increasing the effectiveness of roads as well as public transportation networks. It also encourages the use of environment-friendly vehicles and helps people plan their trips more easily by relying on accurate and timely information about roads and transportation services. It enhances integration among different means of transport and encourages the use of new methods such as car sharing. It also improves security and safety on the roads and within the transport network, takes advantage of the huge amount of information that is available from a variety of sources known as Big Data, and provides Open Data, which is one of the most important innovation tools. This data can be used by governments and communities to increase transportation effectiveness.
The Government of Dubai has taken the lead in this domain, in line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who encourages “a government that does not sleep, works 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, like hospitals and hotels, quick in processing its interactions and easy in its procedures”.
The Smart Dubai initiative seeks to change the way business is conducted across sectors and deliver greater quality of life for millions of people.
One of Dubai’s initiatives in this area is the Dubai Strategy for Self-Driving Smart Transportation, which aims to convert 25 per cent of the total number of trips in Dubai to driverless trips by 2030. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched a pilot programme for the first driverless smart vehicle that can carry up to ten passengers. The savings and economic returns of the strategy are expected to reach Dh22 billion annually.
Dubai also issued the Open Data Law, the first of its kind in the region. It will make non-classified government data publicly available through an integrated platform that can benefit researchers, investors and service developers. This will speed up the development of a new generation of integrated smart services, which will make people’s lives easier and prepare Dubai for the next technological revolution. According to a report by Cisco, in collaboration with the Smart Dubai initiative last year, the Internet of Things is expected to provide job opportunities valued at Dh17.9 billion in the public and private sectors in Dubai by 2020.
The Dubai Plan 2021 aims to make Dubai smart, integrated, connected and the preferred place to live, work and visit.
The Government of Dubai has launched various programmes and projects aimed at protecting the environment, rationalising energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions. It has developed ambitious strategies to increase reliance on renewable and clean energy and develop smart movement, including transportation, road infrastructure and traffic management. This includes taxis, buses, the Dubai Metro, water transport, in addition to sustainable transport initiatives such as electric vehicle charging stations and renewable-energy means of transport. This also includes the expansion of public transport, including the Metro and tram, which use the latest technologies and environment-friendly systems. RTA also aims to transform 50 per cent of Dubai taxis to hybrid vehicles by 2021.
Dubai, and the UAE in general, have started preparations for the post-oil era and are geared to “celebrate the export of the last barrel of oil”.
Economic diversification has contributed to the prosperity of the emirate and turned it into a global hub for trade, finance, tourism and investment.
The transition to the sustainable Smart City model, in which the transportation sector is one of its main pillars, contributes to promoting this vision that puts the happiness of citizens, residents and visitors as a top priority.
The UAE’s leadership has been planning for an integrated economic system that is based on creativity, innovation and future thinking. That’s why the Smart City comes as a basis for an alternative and renewable economy where we don’t rely on a single source of income and are not subject to the fluctuations and changes in the market.–Gulf News

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