Investing in road safety technology
As one of its pillars, BMG Foundation has been involved in safe driving awareness campaigns for over 10 years, but unfortunately car accidents and death rates are still increasing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over the past 12 months there were 10,435 deaths from car accidents in Saudi Arabia. That is a frightening daily average of almost 29.
Speed is still the biggest contributor to road collisions leading to death and injury. Managing speed limits through enforcement and infrastructure design has been the government’s priority via the Saher System. But even with the hefty fines that Saher imposes on violators, accidents have not been reduced.
Road safety is a global priority. Last August, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on “improving global road safety” as a 10-year campaign, with the ambitious target of preventing at least 50 percent of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
The WHO and UN regional commissions, in cooperation with other partners, are developing a plan of action for the next 10 years. This plan should provide an opportunity to harness the successes and lessons of previous years, and to build on them to save more lives.
Car accidents are expected to decline due to the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the Saudi city of NEOM and other giga-projects nationwide as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
Leveraging AI in transportation helps reduce traffic accidents and congestion, and improve passenger safety. AI, for quite some time now, has transcended its theoretical existence in research centers to become omnipresent in our day-to-day lives. Furthermore, it will play an integral role in the progression of self-driving vehicles on public roads.
Saudi Arabia has enormous potential for the self-driving car market. The autonomous shuttle initiative by King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) is a starting point. Along with its local and international strategic partners, KAUST has operated the first autonomous shuttle system in the country by providing high-quality integrated transportation services.
This pilot project, which should inspire investors, is in alignment with the Saudi vision to enhance road safety by developing advanced mobility solutions that contribute to quality of life in the Kingdom.
Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Saudi Arabia have many opportunities to develop technology-driven solutions for road safety. BMG Foundation’s safe driving competition category is an innovative idea that could be implemented and commercialized. I expect and hope that the combination of brains and capital will contribute not only to a high increase in road safety in Saudi Arabia and globally, but also high returns on our investments as well.
• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.