When Saudi Arabia’s residents imagine the transportation of tomorrow, the popular image is of autonomous cars plowing Riyadh’s King Abdullah Road, carrying workers, university students, and football fans alike. But with the Saudi government heavily investing in mass transit and advanced technology, the likely future of transport is quite different. Automation is set to transform not only cars but also shared transportation, such as metros, trains, trams, and buses.
As automation progresses, the costs of sensors and artificial intelligence are decreasing, while the computing power of connected vehicles is increasing. As a result, the Kingdom is at the forefront of using automation to make mass transit faster, cheaper, safer, and more energy efficient — especially on metros and mainline trains in the short term, and buses and trams further ahead.
For example, the Saudi government is heavily investing in autonomous transportation across the country, including the driverless Riyadh Metro, with lines 4, 5, and 6 being developed by the Alstom-partnered FAST consortium. Further in the Kingdom, autonomous transportation will be a key part of the transportation plans for the NEOM Smart City, and regionally, automated transport was a key topic at the recent MENA Transport Congress hosted by the UITP, the international organization for public transport.
In the Saudi cities of the future, automation of signaling and trains could make its biggest impact in enhancing the effectiveness of metros and mainline trains.
Alstom, as a global leader in mobility solutions, is exchanging best practices in autonomous transport with the Middle East, and is supporting rail innovation in the Kingdom by conducting initial dynamic tests for the Riyadh Metro Project at the FAST consortium Line 4 Depot Test Track. Line 4 will feature driverless trains, state-of-the-art signaling, safe and secure stations, and advanced real-time passenger information systems.
“Automation can significantly reduce traffic congestion, costs, and pollution. It can increase travel speeds and rapidly boost the country’s urban economic growth.
As the Kingdom ramps up its investment in smart cities and Saudi Vision 2030, government organizations and the private sector need to take the next six months to plan the future of automated transport,” said Fabrice Toulouse, director of smart mobility at Alstom.