Flying cars ‘set to launch in Dubai this summer’

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EHang 184 model aerial vehicle is at World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai. (AFP)
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Mattar Al-Tayer, director general of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), speaks at the World Government Summit in Dubai.
Updated 15 February 2017

Flying cars ‘set to launch in Dubai this summer’

DUBAI: Flying cars have long been the stuff of an imagined sci-fi future — but the technology is real and is set for launch in Dubai as early as July, it emerged on Monday.
The city’s transport boss, speaking at the World Government Summit (WGS), played a video showing an autonomous aerial vehicle zooming through the skies above Dubai, saying that tests of the flying cars are ongoing.
Mattar Al-Tayer, director general of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said that Dubai aims to be a leader in driverless technology by 2030.
The RTA is currently testing an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) in cooperation with the Ehang Company of China, he said.
“The AAV on display at the World Government Summit is not just a model but it has really flown in Dubai skies. RTA will spare no effort to launch the AAV in July 2017,” Al-Tayer said.
The “flying car” resembles a giant drone, with eight propellers, and was seen in the video carrying one passenger. It can carry a weight of 100kg and cargo the size of a small suitcase.
Al-Tayer said driverless vehicles, minibuses and boats are being trialled in Dubai; the second phase of the Dubai Tram will have fully driverless trams; and a study has been commissioned on the deployment of driverless express shuttle buses and taxis.
“Autonomous mobility… technology has been tested in several countries including Dubai, Singapore, the United States and Britain. The Government of Dubai is leading the transition to driverless mobility in Dubai and is planning to take a leading position worldwide in autonomous mobility by 2030, whereas in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process,” Al-Tayer said.
“Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, has launched the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy where 25 percent of all journeys in Dubai would be transformed into driverless journeys by 2030. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys that would be made by the driverless Dubai Metro to reach 12.2% by 2030 compared with 8.8% in 2016. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys made by autonomous buses to reach 6.4% by 2030.”
Al-Tayer told the World Government Summit that Dubai has carved out a “nifty niche” for itself in the development of driverless technology.
“Dubai has also started the test run of driverless minibuses, vehicles and boats, besides considering the options of deploying driverless express shuttle buses, and taxicabs from some leading companies,” he said.

Al-Tayer pointed however to four key challenges facing the autonomous vehicle technology: infrastructure — including map updates, road markings and traffic lights — laws and legislation, safety and public acceptance of driverless vehicles, and technological requirements.
Besides these global challenges, there are other challenges facing Dubai including harsh weather conditions and the corresponding impact on driverless transportation technological systems, and the social makeup of Dubai, which may increase people’s reluctance to embrace modern technology, Al-Tayer said.
“To cope with these challenges, we have prepared Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy which, compared to other global strategies, is characterized by the leading role of the Government of Dubai in the transition to driverless mobility, while in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process. Moreover, Dubai’s vision incorporates all mass transit modes such as trains, buses, marine transit modes and taxis, as well as private vehicles, while many countries focus on a limited number of transit modes.”
Al-Tayer was upbeat about the promising future of this technology. “The journey on an autonomous vehicle will soon be like boarding a lift. All of us trust the closed box that lifts us to different levels as we know it is secure, ready and tested. This is what the RTA is seeking to achieve through autonomous mobility strategy and associated initiatives,” he said.


Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII review: The car of kings and presidents

Updated 20 May 2020

Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII review: The car of kings and presidents

  • Our reviewer gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury

DUBAI: You can reel off all the petrolhead data you like about the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII — 6.75 liters, 560 brake horse power, V12 twin-turbo engine, 900 newtons of torque and a maximum speed of 250kph — but all of that pales into insignificance before the Spirit of Ecstasy.

The classic sculpture that sits on top of the hood tells you this is a Rolls-Royce, probably the best car in the world. And it is not just any old Rolls, either. This is a Phantom, the British carmaker’s top-of-the-range, most elite model.


Phantoms have been conveying kings, presidents and other rulers for decades. When Sir Winston Churchill wanted to impress his new ally, King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, he gave him a Phantom III variation as a gift. The car is still much loved by royalty throughout the Middle East, and is the ultimate symbol of power, status and luxury.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

Just getting behind the wheel of one boosts your ego several notches. People turn their heads to stare, nudge their friends to take a look, and take photos for immediate Instagramming. A Phantom owner is an influencer.

For a long time it was the ultimate chauffeur car, and no doubt those who own one will be sufficiently well off to afford a driver, too. But it would be unforgivable to miss out on the opportunity to drive this incredible piece of engineering yourself.

German car manufacturer BMW, which has owned Rolls-Royce since 1998, realizes this and is increasingly aiming the car at the self-drive market.

The one I was lucky enough to drive, courtesy of the AGMC dealership in Dubai, was extra special: an extended wheelbase version, some 22 centimeters longer than a “normal” Phantom. This provides even more space in the back for a head of state to spread out while reviewing crucial documents, host a mini-summit, or simply relax.

You might think a car this big will be difficult to drive, but that is not the case at all. The power- assisted steering is as light as a feather, and the four-wheel steering eases you effortlessly round any sharp curves. The German sensor technology makes parking and maneuvering simple, even for such a big, powerful car.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

On Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, you really get the chance to put the thoroughbred through its paces. An eight-speed automatic gearbox zips you from standing to 100kmh in 5.4 seconds, which is fast enough to overtake almost anything else on the road, even in super sports car-crazy Dubai.

When you hit 120kmh, the windshield display politely reminds you of the fact. It needs to do that, because inside the car is as silent as if you were still stationary. Engine noise is virtually non-existent even at high speed, and the suspension is so perfectly balanced you feel like you are gliding along on a cloud, more like a hover vehicle than rubber-on-the road.

Where to begin on the interior? The dashboard on the Phantom I drove was a classy display of Burgundy red leather — matching the seat and deep-pile caret — and polished chrome instruments.

It oozes British craftsmanship mixed with German technology. The dash itself can be customized — “bespoke”, as Rolls-Royce calls it — with any number of stylish motifs. In the Arabian Gulf, Islamic calligraphic themes are popular, as are ocean features such as shells and waves.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

The rear is like a double-seat, first-class cabin on an aircraft, complete with in-flight entertainment in seat-back consoles, a drinks cabinet and curtains that close at the touch of a button to envelop you in luxury. If you want to doze during a long, chauffeured journey, the starlight ceiling display should help you drop off.

“I could live here,” said one passenger I treated to a drive. Which is appropriate, because the Phantom VIII will cost about the same as a reasonably sized Dubai apartment. About AED 2.2m ($600,000) will get you started, before adding those “bespoke” features.

For these, the sky is the limit.

I’ve driven quite a few luxury cars in Dubai and make a habit, when I finish a test-drive, of telling the showroom staff: “That’s the best car I’ve ever driven.” They appreciate the compliment, even when I am faking it.

With the Phantom VIII, I sincerely meant it.