Tammy Broccas October 4, 2019
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When the nascent driverless car industry is mentioned, the U.S. is usually thrust into the spotlight. Cities like Boston, Austin, and Mountain View are hotbeds for the mass adoption of commercial driverless cars.

But, the real leader in supporting the development of autonomous vehicle technologies isn’t found in the United States; nor is it found in Europe. It’s located in the Middle East. The city-state of Dubai has become the premier research and development hub for autonomous vehicle technology.

The Dubai World Challenge For Self-Driving Transport is an example of how the City of Gold plans to accelerate the development and adoption of driverless transport in global cities. Through this initiative, Dubai aims to use smart driverless vehicles for 25 percent of all trips by 2030.

This ambitious goal and its successful adoption will make Dubai a model state for autonomous vehicles. Dubai’s burgeoning autonomous-driving ecosystem will encourage other global cities to discover the transformational opportunities in autonomous vehicle technologies.

But the transformational changes that autonomous driving technology brings won’t simply make roads safer and reduce carbon emissions. Reinventing mobility will define potential opportunities and disruptions. The benefits of autonomous vehicle technologies will also reshape the labor market.

While experts predict that automation will result in the displacement of certain occupations, the opportunities for job creation is significant.

In the age of autonomy, here is what the future of work will look like.

Transport and logistics

The transportation and logistics industry is a critical area in which autonomous disruption will occur. Dubai’s multimodal self-driving transport strategy will see the city-state deploy fleets of automated heavy vehicles, addressing current challenges in the logistics network.

Autonomous freight movements will mean transport trucks will be routed more efficiently.

This will reduce emissions and allow trucks to operate more safely. And with no limit to normal working hours, delivery capabilities will increase, enabling customers to receive deliveries at the most convenient time and place.

Driverless trucking also solves significant issues for companies within the industry. A fleet of autonomous heavy vehicles means driver turnover rates essentially drops to zero. Safety and fuel efficiency improves, and truck driver shortages become a non-issue.

The traditional role of the truck driver will also change. In the future of automated trucking, truck drivers will become more like commercial airline pilots. Rather than driving the significant portion of the trip, truck drivers will simply navigate the last mile or so in more complex situations.

Private and public transport

One of the most significant changes that will occur in the era of automation is the concept of private car ownership. Greater development of the autonomous passenger economy means the creation of a new shared mobility economy model.

Driverless cars will enhance the daily mobility needs of consumers. Experts predict that miles traveled will increase with shared mobility. Rather than focusing on dynamic driving tasks, the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) system will increase productivity opportunities.

A MaaS system will allow customers to catch up on work during their commute. This system can also assist with running errands such as transporting the kids to school, so work is not disruptive. In Dubai, self-driving transport is expected to improve productivity by 13 percent.

Likewise, shared mobility across public transport modes will result in a less complicated travel experience.

Individuals unable to drive, like those with a disability, can take full advantage of self-driving transportation, dramatically improving their ability to work and the opportunities presented to them.

A more seamless urban mobility system means improved road safety and less congestion. People can commute to their destination more efficiently, decreasing disruptions to their productivity.

City infrastructure

To fully realize the benefits of autonomous vehicle technologies, infrastructures must be upgraded. Driverless cars will require a new mobility network to assist in navigating city streets.

Sensors and smart applications will be required to communicate between vehicle and infrastructure. Support facilities must be built to enable servicing and charging of driverless cars. Staging areas and curb modifications must be considered to improve traffic flow and avoid congestion.

This will result in greater job creation as cities must adapt current infrastructure networks to support a network of shared mobility vehicles. Road maintenance will also become a major ongoing concern. Deteriorating roads can be a major impediment for driverless cars, diminishing their effectiveness.

With passenger miles traveled expected to increase with driverless cars, real estate will be significantly disrupted.

The real estate industry will need to readdress and revalue urban real estate assets. Commercial and residential properties will change as modern streetscapes will transform to accommodate driverless cars.

To put this into context, existing infrastructure dedicated to parking garages, gas stations, and auto dealerships will become redundant over time. These structures will need to be redesigned to suit new, more meaningful land use, from mixed-use spaces to urban parks.


With automation, the automotive industry will see some significant transformational changes. The shifting preference from private car ownership to shared mobility services will have a big impact on original equipment manufacturers. This will result in a new value chain.

A technology stack value chain will create a new paradigm in which software and application-focused layers will be the main differentiation and profit of a self-driving car. Carmakers will need to transform physical retail outlets into service hubs where mobility services and software development are prioritized.

Car manufacturers will also need to improve connectivity-enabled functions such as telematics and infotainment services to enhance the passenger experience. This will require integrated partnerships with entertainment suppliers and advertising agencies to maximize profitability.

As vehicles transform into technology-first ecosystems, technology giants like Google and Intel are establishing themselves as real threats to traditional car manufacturers. In time, tech companies may garner significant market share, influencing the future of the automotive industry.

To avoid this, traditional car manufacturers must source the right talent. Already, car manufacturers are establishing numerous partnerships with startups to invest in promising technology.

This is providing job creation in the fields of engineering, computer science, and robotics.

Predicting the future of work

Driverless cars will undoubtedly reshape the existing labor market. The productive capacity of driverless cars will create a more diverse workforce. And while it will destroy certain jobs, its potential to create new ones is currently untapped.

But this transformational change is still to be fully answered.

As a regional hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, Dubai is well-positioned to employ the power of autonomous vehicle technologies to its advantage. Through initiatives like the Self-Driving Vehicle Conference in Dubai and self-driving competitions, Dubai is firmly establishing itself on the map as a hub for autonomous vehicle innovation.
This article was written by Ahmed Bahrozyan, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Transport Agency – Roads and Transport Authority in the United Arab Emirates which is responsible for providing for the needs of public transport in the city. He is also Chairperson of the Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport organizing committee.

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