Emirates one of the most primed for the advent of autonomous driving

30 April 2019 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read

The United Arab Emirates has ranked within the top ten countries worldwide assessed by professional services firm KPMG for automated vehicles readiness.

Assessing 25 nations around the world as to their preparedness for the advent of hands-free driving, this year’s annual KPMG autonomous vehicles (AV) readiness index has determined the United Arab Emirates as the ninth-most advanced on its list, boosted by its world-leading road quality and rapidly growing public acceptance. The country however was let down by its poor data-sharing and lack of AV-related businesses and patents.

Again topped by the Netherlands and close contenders Singapore, the list this year welcomed new entrants Norway and Finland, which in placing respectively in third and sixth spots pushed the UAE down the rankings. The UAE however only dropped the one spot, so effectively rose a position against the countries previously assessed – jumping ahead of Canada due to growing public acceptance and now having the third-most positive consumer opinions of AVs.

As a composite index that combines 25 individual measures from a range of sources into a single score, the UAE elsewhere ranked first for its road quality and the change readiness of its technology infrastructure, altogether landing in at fifth for its aggregate infrastructure score behind just the two overall leaders and South Korea and Japan. The UAE was also noted for change readiness in general, evaluated by KPMG as second worldwide in a comprehensive previous report.Infrastructure readiness country rankings for autonomous drivingOf the three other pillars – consumer acceptance (6th overall) policy & legislation (11th), and technology & innovation – it was in the latter where the UAE fared the worst, finishing 14th among the countries assessed with a particularly poor or minimum score for AV-related patents, industry investments in AV, and AV technology firm headquarters. The UAE on the other hand ranked solidly for industry partnerships, altogether suggesting the barriers to AV adoption will be low in the country but it will not capitalise through home-grown development.

This notion is supported by the UAE notably standing out in respect to consumer acceptance, scoring 9.68 out of 10 according to consumer survey data to sit behind just India and Mexico – two countries with vastly different population numbers and levels of economic development, which sat in the bottom three on the list overall. As a closer comparison, Singapore – which led for policy & legislation – had a consumer acceptance score of 6.54, while the Netherlands was assessed at 4.66.

The high consumer acceptance rates for AV vehicles in some of the least prepared nations, which in addition to India and Mexico further includes fellow bottom-six overall placing nations China, Russia and Brazil – each with scores of 7.8 or above – is given as potentially reflecting the poor quality of road transport in some of these countries, with the public understanding that the introduction of AVs would allow for massive improvements in personal mobility. The UAE however ranked first for road quality and third for acceptance.

And this anomaly is especially intriguing when taking in the general correlation between greater overall consumer acceptance (which considers other factors such as regular adoption of technology and civil society technology usage) and the proportion of the population that live in cities where AV pilots and testing are underway. Here, Singapore and the Netherlands, which lead the pillar overall with scores of 6.9 and 6.6, have a respective 100 percent and 78 percent of their population living in test areas, whereas the UAE has just 22 percent, yet scored a healthy 5.4 overall.

Road infrastructure and consumer acceptance for autonomous driving in the UAEAs for progress in the country, the KPMG report cites several direct initiatives and other supporting conditions, including Dubai’s plan to make 25 percent of all local transportation autonomous by 2030. Elsewhere, the government’s plan to go paperless and run “all applicable government transactions” by way of blockchain technology could also serve to support the transition to autonomous driving through the collation of data – with the UAE’s current data-sharing environment a sore spot, ranking the lowest bar Hungary and China.

“With Dubai’s enthusiasm for technological innovations, in particular its forays into artificial intelligence and blockchain, the UAE is well-positioned to do even better in the future,” said Ravi Suri, KPMG’s Global Head of Infrastructure Finance and a partner and infrastructure advisory leader at the firm’s Lower Gulf practice, which covers the UAE and Oman. “These are technologies that should enable the introduction of AVs.”

More broadly, Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s Global Head of Infrastructure, concludes of this year’s study; “There are numerous opportunities identified in this report for countries to make significant progress and those that did would rise quickly in the rankings. The most successful countries have a policy framework that enables innovation, a strong track record in technology, high-quality road and digital infrastructure, and populations that are eager to adopt new technologies.”