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Auto experts in UAE call for solution to dilemma over self-driving cars

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RITIKA SHARMA / Emirates Business

Imagine you are on a pleasure drive to Al Ain sitting on the pilot seat but facing your friends and chatting with them. How about sipping your cold coffee and admiring Burj Khalifa as your car vrooms on the Sheikh Zayed Road?
All these will become a reality sooner than you visualize. UAE will be one of the first countries to have these intelligent automobiles on its roads but some unsolved regulatory dilemmas need a solution first, UAE auto experts opine.
Fuelling the ongoing contemplations about the future of driverless cars, companies such as Alphabet, Google, Tesla and GM are pumping in trillions of dollars to make autonomous-driving vehicles a reality. However, regional auto experts say that the industry which is poised to reach US$1.37 trillion by 2025, would be a far cry until the issue of ‘moral dilemma’ is addressed.
Experts opine that although driverless cars are certainly the future, but there are legal and moral questions that need satisfactory answers first.
“UAE is home to some of the most avid technology and automobile lovers. The driverless cars will come to the UAE whenever they come to the world and it will be an exciting time for auto industry here,” Arno Husselmann, general manager of Abu
Dhabi Motors, the biggest BMW and Rolls Royce Showroom in the world told Emirates Business.
If the self-automated car has to ensure the safety of its occupants, while making a sensible choice that calls for an immediate reaction to either bang head-on into a fast approaching truck or to run over pedestrians walking besides the road, which option would be morally right? Which choice would the smart machine make? Imagine the legal consequences of this,” he said.
“At present, we have certain driver systems in place that can enable us to take our feet and hands off the controls, such as “active cruise control” which will automatically stop or accelerate the car according to traffic and driving conditions ahead. We also have lane departure warming systems which can keep the car in its lane. We can refer to this first phase as hands and feet off, but we still need to keep our eyes on
the road and our minds engaged,” he further explained.
The next steps in driverless systems, he elaborated, will be eyes-off, followed by brain-off. These two steps will take longer to reach here he believes, but they are certain to come as technologies advance and answers to the ‘moral dilemma’ can be found or introduced.
“Automation will reduce the potential risk of accidents and this is a good thing. These systems will eliminate or reduce the risk of tired or impatient drivers and likely make some journeys more pleasurable, such as families travelling together and being able to interact more,” he pointed out.
“The BMW Group maintains our driverless cars of the future will still have a steering wheel and controls so we can decide when we want to drive or not. But if you need to urgently reply to an e-mail while on the road, you can switch the car to driverless mode, which is hands, feet, eyes and brain off, whilst the car takes over the controls of the car. Seeing we will always have the choice, I support the advent of driverless cars to arrive as soon as possible,” he concluded.
“Automation in any sector is certainly a huge leap for mankind. However, we need a robust regulatory framework in place if we want driverless cars to become a hassle-free reality. The global auto industry is rigorously working towards achieving it,” Peter Hook, an auto blogger based in Dubai said.
Hook added, “We cannot say how long it will take but once everything from legal agenda to moral questions is addressed, we will have them available for buying in our nearby showrooms.”

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