Sia Partners provides support to Dubai self-driving transport challenge

29 November 2021 4 min. read

Global management consulting firm Sia Partners has completed its year-long support of the ‘Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport’.

“We are delighted to have worked together with the government on this strategic initiative, and look forward to seeing what the innovations that have emerged from the competition will bring,” said Carlos Guevara, a partner at Sia Partners.

Launched in 2018 by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the challenge is an international competition designed for industry leaders, start-ups, and academia with the aim of tackling the transport challenges faced by cities.

Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2021

Across all corners of the globe, cities are facing a cohort of similar and thorny challenges, including congestion (the total cost of congestion runs in the trillions of dollars), urban sprawl, the need for greener transport, the challenges that come with in-city electrification demand, meeting more complex mobility demands by passengers, and rising costs of the overall system.

Self-driving transport (or: autonomous vehicles) is seen as one important solution to many of those issues. Benefits of self-driving cars and buses include safety (which translates into huge benefits for society), providing a welcome boost to city life, improving accessibility and rural mobility, and last but not least, driver comfort.

With the competition, Dubai’s government aims to leapfrog other nations and establish itself as a regional and global leader in the development of self-driving transport. By 2030, Dubai’s so-called Smart Self-Driving Transport Strategy aims to convert 25% of total mobility journeys in the emirate to self-driving transport means.

The 2021 edition of the challenge was devoted to self-driving logistical services, including ground transport and drones. Sia Partners provided support and logistics to the participants during the challenge, as well as serving as the linking pin between the different stakeholders of the challenge (including the likes of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority and Dubai Customs).

During the project, the consultants worked on developing the testing framework, along with a specialised engineering firm from Germany, and the World Economic Forum. They ensured the test site readiness by selecting the challenge site, procuring the required equipment, preparing the site, and coordinating the site safety certification by a third-party company.

Guevara: “We also organised the mobilisation of the participants to Dubai, conducted briefings, prepared the logistics, supported the participants, and mobilised the stakeholders to facilitate the challenge.”

Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport

Last month, the challenge reached its climax, when innovations were invited to present their concepts at the Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport, attended by 350+ people in the Dubai World Trade Center. They were provided an action-packed and interactive agenda and keynote from industry gurus such as Sebastian Thrun (also known as the godfather of Autonomous Google) and Steven Shladover (the lead of Vehicle Automation research series).

Project team members including Sia Partners

At the end of the congress, three innovations were handed support by Dubai’s government. Careem and Kiwibot were provided support to develop food and grocery delivery robots, Majid Al Futtaim and Yandex have been tasked with exploring tech solutions to enhance the last-mile delivery of Carrefour orders, and Noon, Neolix and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) landed funding to advance their concept for self-driving logistical services within the RIT campus.

“These agreements set a global platform for companies, academia, and R&D centres to run case scenarios and introduce self-driving transport technologies in Dubai. It also contributes to broadening the use of autonomous transport means, and encouraging entities to tackle the existing challenges,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of the Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority.

Sia Partners played a large supporting role during the event, preparing the congress, contributing to the agenda and taking a seat in the jury team responsible for evaluating the concepts.

“Congratulations to all the winners and to the organising team for putting in place an excellent event and one that sets the fundament for future editions,” concluded Guevara.