Want to say hello to a Cruise robot taxi as soon as you can? You might want to book a trip to the UAE. The GM-backed brand has made a deal to operate autonomous taxis and rideshare services in Dubai in 2023. It will be Cruise’s first commercial autonomous service with its Origin vehicles outside of the United States, Dubai said. Only a handful of autonomous shuttles will be available initially, but the city plans to have as many as 4,000 origins on the streets by 2030.
This decision is as much a cost reduction measure as anything else. Dubai has set itself a goal of reducing transportation costs by AED 900 million (about $ 245 million) per year and wants to save AED 1.5 billion ($ 408 million) by reducing pollution. Cruise’s electric robotaxis could help achieve these goals by helping many people get around the city in an environmentally friendly way while reducing accidents.
This is a high-profile deal for Cruise, which has just started test fully driverless cars in San Francisco. Whether or not Cruise can get more big deals is another matter. Dubai is a wealthy city with ideal conditions for autonomous vehicles, including pristine roads and warm weather all year round. Cruise would face a bigger challenge of winning a cash-strapped town with pockmarked, snow-covered streets. This may be more of a pilot project for Cruise than a sign that the robot taxis are completely ready for public service.