Automotive and transport leaders from across the world gathered in Dubai for the 5th International Conference on Future Mobility (ICFM) last month as HE Abdulla Abdulqader Al Maeeni, director general, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) outlined plans to integrate new technology into the emirate’s infrastructure.

HE Al Maeeni said ESMA – which organises the conference in collaboration with Messe Frankfurt Middle East – aims to be a platform for government agencies and leading companies in the fields of smart and sustainable mobility.

“We recognise that technological advances based on the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are the key to the development in this field,” said HE Al Maeeni. “The future of the automotive and transport sector will be radically different from the past, where many trends, including the decentralisation of energy production, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence will bring about radical changes in the transport system and mobility, as well as the foundations and objectives of electric mobility, the future of transport in smart cities, and facing the challenges of internet security in connected and self-navigating transportation.”

And major change is on the horizon, according to HE Al Maeeni: “The automotive and transport sector faces a future that will be fundamentally different from its past. Numerous trends ranging from energy decentralization to the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are coming together to create drastic changes in the transport and mobility ecosystem which will be in focus at this year’s conference.”

Delegates heard from a powerful speaker line-up comprising regulators, vehicle and transport designers and operators from the USA, Canada, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Former Chief Information Officer of the City of Palo Alto and quantum computing expert, Dr Jonathan Reichental applauded Dubai’s autonomous vehicle trials and says openness to experimentation will be key to future transport success: “there are so many interesting innovations emerging in the mobility space that we need to look at each and understand their benefits and challenges,” he added.  “There is a trend towards more personalised transport such as scooters, ebikes, and mopeds. In addition, there are greater demands being placed on the availability of electric charging stations as our mobility options become electric-powered.

“Taking a broad view of the emergent space and developing a strategy is a better approach than to piecemeal the response for every new idea. This is the time for leadership and the UAE is showing what is possible.”

Edoardo Gianotti of the Sustainable Transport Division of the World Forum says he plans to canvas Middle East support for global standards and share the latest in developing global technical regulation for electric vehicle safety.

Regulations on a global scale, he said, are vital to the survival of vehicle makers: “because of the relatively small volume of electric vehicles and their components currently produced, any degree of convergence between regulatory obligations at the national and international level can result in economies of scale and cost reductions for automotive manufacturers – critical in the context of economic recovery and the general cost-sensitiveness of the industry.

“Different national regulations create barriers to trade, requiring manufacturers to design vehicles to meet each individual standard and to test them in each country. These costs are passed on to the consumer,” he warned.

The Middle East, remaarked Gianotti, will have a pivotal role to play in drafting regulations.

“In order to ensure the overall safety of vehicles equipped with a Rechargeable Electrical Energy Storage System containing flammable electrolyte, the vehicle occupants should not be exposed to the hazardous environment resulting from a thermal propagation, which is triggered by a single cell thermal runaway due to an internal short circuit.

“This is particularly critical for high temperature climate like in UAE. The contribution of Middle East countries to develop provisions fitting high temperature climates could be relevant.”

Experts from international specialists and regulators delivered their expertise on the future of travel and autonomous vehicles during the opening day of the conference which will ran from 26-27 November. at the Grand Hyatt.

Echoing HE Al Maeeni’s session on the future of mobility, Nicolas Fleury, Deputy Secretary General, International Organisation for Standardization (ISO), pinpointed challenges and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, technology and automation and the role regulations will play in supporting growth.

“Mobility in its many forms is at the heart of our society, more, the freedom of movements is a fundamental human right,” said Fleury. “Mobility also drives economic development through the circulation of goods around the world.

“Mobility impacts every moment of our lives, transforms our lives and shapes the world around us. As we look at the challenges and opportunities from new technologies to growing organisation and climate change, we should bear in mind that cooperation, collaboration and consensus provide much greater results than the sum of its parts.”

Signalling one way forward was the announcement of the first ever semi-autonomous heavy vehicle journey between Dubai and Abu Dhabi completed by Mercedes-Benz’s new Actros truck, the 140km trip demonstrated the future of goods transportation and what can be achieved with current technology.