Today, AI demonstrates a number of opportunities for the sector, presenting solutions to some of mobility’s key challenges, particularly when it comes to effectiveness, efficiency, and optimisation.

Driving this exploration is rising consumer demand for adaptable, eco-friendly choices. Consumers are increasingly seeking convenient, on-demand mobility services such as ridesharing and bike-sharing, which reflects a shift away from traditional vehicle ownership towards more flexible, cost-effective transportation solutions.

An increase in governments offering tax rebates, subsidies, and infrastructure support to enhance EV affordability and drive market growth is also playing a key role in propelling the expansion of AI-powered mobility solutions. Some regions are more welcoming than others, however.

Dubai, for example, recognises that mobility – green mobility in particular – is the future of transportation. Demand for EVs in the UAE is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 30% between 2022 and 2028, according to the Global Electric Mobility Readiness Index. It also ranks number one in the Middle East and Africa for urban mobility readiness, as found in a recent study by the Oliver Wyman Forum and University of California.

The future of mobility

Examples of this readiness are apparent across the region, though one economic zone is proving to be a key partner for entrepreneurs and start-ups exploring mobility solutions. Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO), a global hub for business and a specialised economic zone for knowledge and innovation, offers sustainable economic growth through a range of industry clusters, including a Future Mobility association.

Designed to foster innovation, enrich economic growth, facilitate knowledge transfer, and provide access to the zone’s talent pool, the Future Mobility cluster offers members numerous business opportunities, including access to Dubai’s Experimental Zone. The zone, located in DSO, is a real-world testbed designed to support the development, evaluation, and demonstration of robotics and autonomous systems.

Last year, DSO welcomed attendees of the three-week-long Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone delivery trials conducted by Jeebly UAE and Skye Air Mobility to test their products in the Experimental Zone. The delivery trials showcased the safe and secure transportation of a wide range of consumer goods within DSO, highlighting how the economic zone provides the advanced infrastructure to test new solutions.

Muammar Al Katheeri, Chief Officer of Engineering and Sustainability at Dubai Integrated Economic Zones Authority (DIEZ) noted how DSO has welcomed “numerous innovators” across a range of sectors to test drone delivery concepts. “We are delighted to collaborate with Skye Air and Jeebly in piloting their BVLOS drone delivery systems at DSO and offer our expertise to support the success of their trials,” he said.

Events hosted at DSO to encouraging discussion on the latest on mobility, AI, and EVs include the MENA EV Show. Speakers at the 2023 event included representatives from the UAE government, DSO, Porsche, Hitachi, and Volvo, with panels deliberating questions on enabling greater electric mobility and supporting startup innovation in the region. The next conference is to be hosted in November 2024 to build upon the community inaugurated at last year’s event. 

Challenges in testing tech to scale

The ability to test new tech in a secure, nurturing, and supportive environment is key to its success. While pilots offer useful insights for early-stage development, robust and extensive testing is required if a business wants to scale to a commercial level. The testing period not only allows beta users to provide real-time feedback on the product experience and highlight issues that need to be addressed, but also provides the opportunity to gather further insight into a business’s operational infrastructure, giving management the chance to remove inefficiencies and make any necessary organisational changes.

However, achieving this requires the help of expert networks and funding partners that can help SMEs and startups get their ideas off the ground. DSO’s resources have already been employed for a variety of innovative tests and competitions such as those conducted by Jeebly. Last summer also saw DSO’s Dubai Experimental Zone utilised for the trialling of a variety of autonomous buses presented by companies and students from around the world in the 3rd Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2023. And, in May 2023, the Fakeeh University Hospital executed its own successful drone trial at DSO. The trial saw medication delivered via drone from the hospital, based in DSO, to patients’ homes.

The comparative merits of EVs, AVs, and drones as future alternative transport continue to be debated. However, investment in all aspects of mobility is required to unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0 and 5.0. Testing of such systems is also essential for the development of the MENA region, and through conferences, investment, and workshops Dubai Silicon Oasis is at the forefront of the future mobility wave.

To learn more about mobility and testing tech to scale in DSO, download the free paper below.