Today is World Cities Day 2018

Today is World Cities Day 2018

Today is World Cities Day 2018 and it is hosted by the city of Liverpool, UK and the event is being jointly organised with UN-Habitat and the Shanghai People’s Government.

The event is being attended by mayors, national and local government experts, representatives from global partnerships and coalitions and academics from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the USA.  Panel sessions and seminars will give cities opportunities to exchange knowledge and best practices and focus international attention on sustainable urbanization.  

In the meantime, here is a picture of what is going on in the world.

UN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu Cities in developing countries like Nairobi in Kenya continue to grow rapidly.

 

Weekly migration of 1.4m to cities can contribute to ‘disasters’

 30 October 2018

 

Climate Change

The migration of some 1.4 million people every week to cities around the world “can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters’” according to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

In his message for World Cities Day, celebrated annually on 31 October, Mr. Guterres stressed that “hazards do not need to become disasters.”

“The answer is to build resilience – to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises,” he said.

Mr. Guterres explained that cities around the world are doing just that, forging new ways to increase resilience and sustainability.

The capital of Thailand, Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods.

In Quito, the capital of Ecuador in South America, local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity.

The UN chief also indicated that the city of Johannesburg in South Africa “is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.”

Risks

World Cities Day was established by the UN to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), flagged the importance of investing in resilience or face growing “economic, social, political and human” risks.

“It has been estimated that without action on climate change – which accounts for just one facet of resilience – some 77 million urban residents risk falling into poverty,” she warned, elaborating that human-made and environmental threats ranged from droughts, floods and fires to economic shocks, disease outbreaks, war and migration.

“Investing in resilience is a wise investment,” the UN Habitat chief said.

The theme of this year’s commemoration, Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities, focuses on the need to preserve human life and limit damage and destruction while continuing to provide infrastructure and services after a crisis.

A range of UN-backed international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda provide “a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world,” according to the UN Secretary-General. 

World Cities Day

Advertisements
Urbanisation Trends and the ensuing Acceleration of . . .

Urbanisation Trends and the ensuing Acceleration of . . .

There is no doubt that urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . lifestyle of many had a definite bearing on life on earth generally. The causes could perhaps be attributed to the recent additional availability of high earnings in the developing world’s peoples, and this had a direct impact if only by their sheer numbers on the whole planet. These trends got concentrated as elaborated on in the proposed article of Audrey de Nazelle, Lecturer in air pollution management, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London in certain regions only of the globe.
So, would urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . life generally, have a similar impact on all those ‘left behind’ other regions?
We republish this article posted in the World Economic Forum’s Environment and Natural Resource and Security Cities and Urbanization for its apparent interest for the MENA region.

What would happen if we removed cars from cities?


“It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air” Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

 

 

 

 

 

Air pollution is now the fourth biggest killer in the world after smoking, high blood pressure and diet. It contributes to more than six million deaths every year. The majority of these are in poorer nations. Worryingly, air quality may become increasingly worse with rapidly expanding urbanization.
More than half the world’s population now live in cities. By 2050, this will reach two thirds. As more people move from rural areas to cities, there will be more cars on the roads, more traffic congestion hotspots near homes and workplaces, and less green space.

 

City dwellers are already suffering from fumes and smog on their daily commutes. It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air.
Why do nations, political leaders, experts and campaigning organisations want to reduce air pollution? The main reason is to improve people’s health. But we can be bolder than simply mitigating this problem by trying to reduce particle concentrations. There is an exciting opportunity to go much further, and fundamentally rethink the way cities work.
Paradoxically, air pollution can spur us to transform public health and infrastructure, and change how we design cities in the future.

We currently spend a lot of time focusing on ways to reduce emissions or develop cleaner and more efficient fuels. Lawmakers apply taxes and levies or ban older cars in cities. The car industry is seeing a boom in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are much more environmentally friendly.
Of course, these solutions play an important role in cleaning up our urban air. But we are missing a huge opportunity to take a more holistic approach to the health and well-being of people living in cities.
For example, what if we rethought the purpose of our streets. Are they really just meant for cars to get from A to B? Or can we see them as a place to walk and cycle, where children play and neighbours meet?

Smog surrounds the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral in London Image: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

 

 

 

By removing cars from cities, you are not just reducing emissions – there are countless other benefits. Researchers in London studied the health impacts of cutting emissions by two different methods. The first scenario used a technology-led policy, while the second promoted walking and cycling instead of driving.
Both scenarios resulted in similar levels of improved air quality. But the method which encouraged people to walk and cycle generated up to 30 times more benefits, due to health improvements from increased physical activity. I have carried out similar research in other cities and reached the same conclusions.

Sadly, current levels of air pollution may be putting people off from enjoying the outdoors and getting regular physical activity. A recent study in London compared the health effects of a walk in Hyde Park against one along Oxford Street. For people over 60, toxic air pollution cancelled out some of the benefits they got from the light physical activity.
And in some of the world’s most polluted cities, such as Delhi and Beijing, cycling for more than an hour every day can do more harm to you than good.

Smog over the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, Thailand Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

 

 

Some cities have announced car-free or car-less visions, including Milan, Copenhagen, Madrid and Paris. Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city centre permanently by 2019. Chengdu in China is designing a new residential area in which people will be able to walk everywhere easily, reducing the need for cars.
Although it was forgotten for a while, we do have some history of planning cities with public health in mind. The urban sanitarians in the mid-1850s called for new planning strategies that included more green space, better ventilation through streets and increased sunlight into homes, to combat the epidemics of the time – cholera and the plague.
These people made their mark on their respective cities through a conscious effort of planning for better health. We’re hoping to make similar strides again. Imperial’s Network of Excellence in Air Quality aims to identify the next big frontiers in air quality research, collaborating across disciplines to deliver new insights. Scientists and researchers from medicine, engineering, business and other disciplines are coming together to share expertise and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges.

My colleagues, Dr Marc Stettler, Dr Laure de Preux and I will be exploring some of these issues with peers and global leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin in China later this year.
Like the urban sanitarians of nearly 200 years ago, we again have the opportunity to design our cities to improve public health. I have no doubt that we will get there, and that we will realize this new vision of what streets and neighbourhoods are for – a place for people to live in, not just cars. Why not start now, and start reaping the benefits

Can Chinese cities leave the car behind?

Can Chinese cities leave the car behind?

Encouraging bicycles and investing in public transport are just some of the ways Chinese cities are trying to minimise car use Photo credit: chuyu. But can Chinese cities leave the car behind? Let us read Liu Shaokun.

For years, Chinese city planners have prioritised cars, but they’re now taking a different route, writes Liu Shaokun.

Plagued by congestion and air pollution, China’s cities are exploring models of transportation that are more sustainable in terms of their social, environmental and climate impacts. Some have emerged as global leaders, such as Hangzhou, south-west of Shanghai, which in 2017 won an international award for its municipal bike sharing scheme. More recently Shenzhen, a major city north of Hong Kong, electrified its entire fleet of public buses, gaining worldwide recognition.

Over the past 40 years, China has undergone rapid urbanisation. In the 1980s, the one-time “kingdom of the bicycle” saw economic reforms and the transition to motorised transportation. The country is now shifting again, this time towards modern, sustainable transportation. Today, you can use your mobile phone to unlock a shared bike, ride it along with a dedicated cycle path to the nearest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station, park the bike and ride on to your next destination. Such journeys are already an everyday occurrence in many Chinese cities.

As the world’s largest developing nation, China’s experience of large-scale experiments with transport and implementation are of huge value to other developing countries.

Urban rail and bus rapid transit: A response to rapid motorisation

China started large-scale construction of urban rail and bus rapid transit options in 2004. By the third quarter of 2017, 29 Chinese cities had some form of urban rail (defined as subways, light-rail, monorail and automated people movers, or APMs), with 118 lines stretching a total of 3,862 kilometres and carrying 17.68 billion passengers per year.

Urban rail systems in Shanghai and Beijing are longer than London’s and busier than those of New York and Paris. Urban rail in some Chinese cities accounts for about half of all public transport journeys.

But rail transit is expensive. The World Bank recommends developing nations adopt the medium-capacity and bus-based BRT model – an approach also welcomed by China’s city bosses. The design of Beijing’s BRT system, launched in 2005, drew on the experiences of Latin American countries such as Brazil’s dedicated “corridors”, separate lanes specifically for BRT buses; enclosed stations; fast and frequent services; off-board fare collection; and good information for passengers. As of early 2018, 32 Chinese cities have BRT systems, with over ten more cities planning, designing or building them. The BRT system in Curitiba, southern Brazil, was a major influence on the early designs of China’s own BRT systems.

In the early days, China’s application of Latin American BRT systems experienced some problems around integration with existing bus routes, and designs had to be adjusted to make them more appropriate for the specific structural needs of Chinese cities. China had a larger number of existing bus routes running along BRT corridors, meaning the impacts of the new lanes was limited. Whereas in Curitiba, the dedicated system only allowed a small number of routes to run along the corridor.

In 2009, Guangzhou province implemented a “dedicated corridor and flexible routes” model, allowing non-BRT buses to use the corridor, and BRT routes to operate outside it, which improved travel times.

Guangzhou’s BRT system also has a transport corridor, which fully combines different forms of transport. The corridor can handle 28,000 passengers per hour in peak direction – more than most subways and more than any light rail system worldwide. In 2011 the Guangzhou BRT system won the Sustainable Transport Award and the UN Lighthouse Award.

A BRT station in Jiangsu province, China. Photo credit: Conny Hetting 2012.

A people-centred street revolution

In response to the damage done by motorised transport to urban mobility, air quality and health, Chinese cities have started remoulding urban spaces. When it comes to design, there is a greater focus on how people interact and live.

When it comes to design, there is a greater focus on how people interact and live .

In 2016, Shanghai published the seminal Shanghai Street Design Guide, which signalled a shift in core urban design values away from cars and towards people. The guide emphasised walking and cycling – a previously overlooked consideration – and a reduction of space for vehicles. This aimed to prioritise slower forms of transport, providing space for pedestrians and ensuring the free flow of bicycles, in order to create a more pleasant and convenient environment.

Alongside Shanghai and Guangzhou, dozens of other cities including Wuhan and Nanjing began working on their own guides to urban street design. More and more cities are joining the revolution.

The Guangzhou Comprehensive Street Design Handbook tested turns of 4m, 5m, 8m, 10m and 12m radius with cars, 9-metre buses and 12-metre buses. Photo credit: Guangzhou City Planning Design and Research Institute.

Embracing innovation: the electric bicycle and shared bike schemes

As China continues to urbanise, commuters need new forms of transport. Electric bicycles and the more recent shared bike schemes, pioneered by brands including Ofo and Mobike, have swept the nation. They have met the public need for both speed and convenience. But the influx of bikes has also been blamed for clogging up pavements and roadsides and causing a public nuisance.

By 2014, China had over 200 million electric bicycles, which represented the main form of transport for countless households. As of May 2015, over 10 million bikes had been placed around Chinese cities as part of shared bike schemes, with over 100 million registered users making over one billion trips. This has saved large amounts of carbon emissions, private companies and governments claim.

Electric bicycles do not directly produce any pollutants, they take up little space on roads and are suitable for short and medium-length journeys. They are faster than conventional bicycles, less tiring to ride, and reasonably cheap. The ability to rent and park shared bikes with few restrictions has encouraged their use in cities. The electric bicycle is an excellent option in cities with underdeveloped public transport systems, while shared bikes can help cover the “last mile” problem – the last leg of a journey, between a transport hub or connecting stop, and home – in instances where public transport is insufficient, replacing short-distance car journeys.

Data from bike-sharing firm Mobike shows that 81% of Beijing’s shared bikes are used around public transportation stops. The figure rises to 90% in Shanghai.

A first-quarter 2017 transportation report from mapping firm AutoNavi found the number of car journeys of five kilometres or less falling since shared bikes became available. Both Shanghai and Beijing saw drops of 5%.

Chinese cities have had to adapt quickly to the boom in shared bikes, including careless parking and dumping. Photo credit: Slices of Light.

But these rapidly developing forms of transport present city planners with challenges. Electric bikes are relatively fast and their numbers are rapidly increasing but they have become a major cause of traffic accidents. Between 2013 and 2017 there were 56,200 accidents caused by electric bicycles resulting in death or injury in China, with 8,431 people killed and 63,500 injured. The biggest issue with shared bikes, meanwhile, is inconsiderate parking, the underlying cause of which is a lack of infrastructure and a long-standing failure to legislate for bicycle use.

So these new forms of transport often come into conflict with city managers. However, the government is gaining valuable experience as it attempts to design policies for their use. For example, China initially limited the speed and weight of electric bicycles, a controversial move with the public. Some local governments simply banned or limited their use.

These attempts eventually led to the “Nanning model”, named after the city in the southern Guangxi province near the border with Vietnam, which abandoned outright bans in favour of optimising traffic signals, improving signage and road safety education. This enabled the city and the electric bicycle to co-exist.

Similarly, the central government has issued regulations to guide the rapid uptake of shared bike schemes in an effort to steer, rather than stop, their growth. Some cities have also started to improve and expand infrastructure such as bike lanes to boost “bike-friendliness.”

On more Lessons from China’s experience, read the full Analysis: Can Chinese cities leave the car behind?

The GCC Rail Network development completion postponement

The GCC Rail Network development completion postponement

ZAWYA of October 30th, 2017 published this piece of information on the GCC rail network development completion postponement in the countries and its current progress status. The planned network per the local media was already hampered by not only financial difficulties as State budgets were tightened because of low oil prices but to also technical and bureaucratic obstacles prior to the 5 months old political crisis within the Gulf countries.

UAE says Gulf rail network to operate from 2021 despite regional rift

Train tracks. The planned 2,100 km (1,300 mile) passenger and cargo network connecting the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states was pushed back at least three years to 2021.

Alexander Cornwell, Reuters News

DUBAI – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) infrastructure minister said on Monday he expected a delayed rail project connecting nations across the Gulf to be operational by 2021, despite a regional political crisis that has divided some countries involved. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, including transport links, in June, accusing their neighbour of backing terrorism, a charge Doha denies. Two other Gulf Arab states, Kuwait and Oman, have remained neutral. Infrastructure Development Minister Abdullah Belhaif al-Nuaimi told Reuters that Gulf nations involved in the railway project were still aiming to complete the network by 2021.

“That is still the date,” he said. The planned 2,100 km (1,300 mile) passenger and cargo network connecting the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states was pushed back at least three years to 2021 before the political crisis erupted.

The UAE suspended construction of its portion of the network in 2016, while Oman said it would shift its focus to building its domestic network. “It’s going forward. We still have small hiccups here and there but the project, hopefully, is going forward,” Al-Nuaimi said without giving details on whether construction has resumed. Several projects across the region have been put on hold as Gulf oil producers struggle with low crude prices and rising budget deficits. The UAE network will span the country’s seven emirates from the Gulf of Oman to the Saudi and Omani borders. It would connect to Qatar through Saudi Arabia’s network. (Editing by Edmund Blair) ((Alexander.Cornwell@thomsonreuters.com;))

 

When will Robotics be applied to our Transportation

When will Robotics be applied to our Transportation

Following our article “The end of ever-rising consumption of Oil is in sight” here is something that is close and related to that, e.g. Self-driving cars.  It is about when will robotics be applied to our transportation modes and be made accessible to the public at large.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence that are obviously required in any self-driving vehicle have been in and out of our life for so many years that I personally cannot recall anytime without it either hearing and / or being talked about it, disserted on, etc.  As a matter of fact, there has never been in the technological world as much change as there is now and still is.
The prevalence of the combustion engine car has never been as much under question as it is now because of its direct impact on the environment. 
There is still strong belief however (as per confirmed forecasts) that the number of this type of cars worldwide will increase from less of today’s billion to something short of 2 billion by 2035 whilst that of the electric car would be from 0.1% to 6% of that figure.
McKinsey Automotive & Assembly in an article covering their insights produced an enlightening review of the on-going work in progress.  Here it is with our compliments to the team of authors.

 

Self-driving car technology: When will the robots hit the road?

By Kersten Heineke, Philipp Kampshoff, Armen Mkrtchyan, and Emily Shao

As cars achieve initial self-driving thresholds, some supporters insist that fully autonomous cars are around the corner. But the technology tells a (somewhat) different story.

The most recent people targeted for replacement by robots? Car drivers—one of the most common occupations around the world. Automotive players face a self-driving-car disruption driven largely by the tech industry, and the associated buzz has many consumers expecting their next cars to be fully autonomous. But a close examination of the technologies required to achieve advanced levels of autonomous driving suggests a significantly longer timeline; such vehicles are perhaps five to ten years away.

Mapping a technology revolution

The first attempts to create autonomous vehicles (AVs) concentrated on assisted-driving technologies (see sidebar, “What is an autonomous vehicle?,” for descriptions of SAE International’s levels of vehicle autonomy). These advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)—including emergency braking, backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, and self-parking systems—first appeared in luxury vehicles. Eventually, industry regulators began to mandate the inclusion of some of these features in every vehicle, accelerating their penetration into the mass market. By 2016, the proliferation of ADAS had generated a market worth roughly $15 billion.

Around the world, the number of ADAS systems (for instance, those for night vision and blind-spot vehicle detection) rose from 90 million units in 2014 to about 140 million in 2016—a 50 percent increase in just two years. Some ADAS features have greater uptake than others. The adoption rate of surround-view parking systems, for example, increased by more than 150 percent from 2014 to 2016, while the number of adaptive front-lighting systems rose by around 20 percent in the same time frame (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1

Both the customer’s willingness to pay and declining prices have contributed to the technology’s proliferation. A recent McKinsey survey finds that drivers, on average, would spend an extra $500 to $2,500 per vehicle for different ADAS features. Although at first they could be found only in luxury vehicles, many original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) now offer them in cars in the $20,000 range. Many higher-end vehicles not only autonomously steer, accelerate, and brake in highway conditions but also act to avoid vehicle crashes and reduce the impact of imminent collisions. Some commercial passenger vehicles driving limited distances can even park themselves in extremely tight spots.

But while headway has been made, the industry hasn’t yet determined the optimum technology archetype for semiautonomous vehicles (for example, those at SAE level 3) and consequently remains in the test-and-refine mode. So far, three technology solutions have emerged:

  • Camera over radar relies predominantly on camera systems, supplementing them with radar data.
  • Radar over camera relies primarily on radar sensors, supplementing them with information from cameras.
  • The hybrid approach combines light detection and ranging (lidar), radar, camera systems, and sensor-fusion algorithms to understand the environment at a more granular level.

The cost of these systems differs; the hybrid approach is the most expensive one. However, no clear winner is yet apparent. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. The radar-over-camera approach, for example, can work well in highway settings, where the flow of traffic is relatively predictable and the granularity levels required to map the environment are less strict. The combined approach, on the other hand, works better in heavily populated urban areas, where accurate measurements and granularity can help vehicles navigate narrow streets and identify smaller objects of interest.

 

 

 

Tesla to market its electric cars in the MENA region

Tesla to market its electric cars in the MENA region

Electric cars in the MENA region ?

According to Wikipedia, Tesla, Inc. (formerly named Tesla Motors) is an American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. The company was initially founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, although the company also considers Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright amongst its co-founders. With Tesla to market its electric cars in the MENA region, the reactions did not take time to come out into the open as per the proposed articles of the local media. 

Tesla Model X in Dubai

In the current conjecture, SME Advisor Middle East, a consulting firm aimed at business owners and senior executives across the GCC came up with an article on Tesla’s ambitious promotional campaign in the Gulf reproduced here.

Elon Musk’s announcement officially introducing Tesla’s zero-emission e-car Models S and X to Dubai is all the rage this week.

But why all the hoopla? The Tesla is by no means an easy buy at an estimated price tag of AED 275,000 for the sedan version and AED 344,000 for the SUV. But this is the UAE. Looks matter, and so does 0 to 60. This is where people can drive and own vehicles that are considered a dream elsewhere. Truth be told, the Tesla is probably just going to be another expensive car on UAE roads.
Sustainability has been the UAE Government’s favourite buzzword for a few years now. In 2015, the government linked domestic petrol and diesel prices to the global market; removing subsidies that had cost US$1bn a year over the last decade. Besides the positive fiscal impact, the move was part of a wider realignment of the energy policy geared to minimising the UAE’s carbon footprint. Just last month, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE), the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced new targets to cut down carbon emissions by increasing the green mobility share; aiming for one in every ten cars on Dubai roads to be either a hybrid or fully electric. A major UAE bank has just announced a special loan to allow residents to buy and drive electric and hybrid cars of their choice. And the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) has just ordered 200 Tesla e-cars for its fleet.

Is the trend evident yet?

The shift to sustainability is happening now, and not a moment too soon. The transition from being a petro-economy to one based on a mix of predominantly clean energy sources won’t happen overnight; but it is happening. Implications will be far-reaching – affecting purchase choices, carmakers, energy companies, insurers, health care, government funding, and more. Value shifts as a new ecosystem of mobility emerges.

Which is why Musk’s announcement has echoed so loudly. The Tesla founder didn’t just announce the introduction of his cars in the UAE; he promised to aid the setting up of a whole e-car ecosystem. Pledging tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructure is not just a huge challenge; it could perhaps be the catalyst the country needs to start buying electric. With Tesla, sustainable personal transport has finally arrived.

The UAE has had a long-standing love affair with cars, and has been a lot slower in introducing electric vehicles on its roads. The good news is that it is still ahead of other countries in the region. Fossil fuel is only going to get scarcer, and prices are only going to go higher. The introduction of the e-car might not spark a tsunami transition in buying habits. But what it will begin is a rising tide of sorts that will expedite the UAE Government’s efforts to shift its dependence on oil – to clean, renewable energy sources.  And will Tesla be the car that drives us into a sustainable future?  If Elon Musk has his way, it will.

Tesla’s drive was also reviewed by AMEinfo and the following article was posted on 16 February 2017.

3 reasons why MENA is not ready for Tesla

Tesla announced a regional debut, but are we ready for it?. (Image: Alamy)

  • Large parts of MENA region are still struggling with basics
  • Many countries in region don’t have the necessary infrastructure
  • High cost of such vehicles may be another hindrance

Tesla, the manufacturer of autonomous electric vehicles, made headlines this week when it announced a market debut for the Middle East region, through Dubai.

And buying has already started. The emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) signed on Monday an agreement on the sidelines of the World Government Summit to buy 200 Tesla vehicles. The vehicles would be fitted with multiple autonomous driving technologies.

Tesla also started accepting online orders through its website, with initial deliveries expected this summer.

The company also opened a pop-up store in Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping centre, allowing potential buyers to experience Tesla and learn about benefits of ownership. In addition to its Dubai activities, the automaker plans to open a store and a service centre in Abu Dhabi by 2018.

These moves seem to signal the major advent of autonomous vehicles in the UAE and the wider MENA region, but are we really ready?

No room for growth

Tesla’s announced activities are currently limited to the emirate of Dubai and near-future plans include the UAE as a whole, but it has not yet announced any plans for other countries in Middle East, or the larger MENA region. While Musk said there are plans to expand to other Gulf countries, nothing has been officially announced.

However, the UAE is relatively small market in size compared with the larger MENA region. Apart from a few neighbouring countries still benefitting from oil dollars, many other nations in the MENA region is still struggling with basics; either picking up the pieces from political uprisings, or embroiled in civil war and terror threats, making them not the greatest markets in terms of opportunity.

This could well be the reason why Musk kept the MENA region as a stop after China, as the latter was more of a priority.

(Tesla targets Middle East drive with Dubai debut)

Infrastructure

Tesla also brought its sophisticated Supercharger and Destination charging network to the emirate. It opened two Supercharging locations at The Last Exit in Jebel Ali and in Masdar City, allowing drivers to recharge their vehicles in minutes rather than hours. UAE is already home to a number of Tesla’s Destination chargers, which are available at 26 locations across the UAE, including hotels and shopping malls.

By the end of the year, Tesla will open five additional Supercharger locations, enabling long distance travel across every route into and out of the country.

As we have the UAE’s sophisticated infrastructure, including smooth roads and services needed for maintaining and operating the charging centres, such luxuries don’t exist in other MENA countries.

Some countries are just now looking to overhaul their infrastructure, such as Kuwait which announced projects worth $15.6 billion for financial year 2017-2018, or Lebanon, which just received $200 million from the World Bank Group for road repairs.

Other countries also suffer from deadly infrastructural roadblocks that cannot be solved through a few projects, but rather need a comprehensive urban development plan and time for execution, such as Egypt, with its traffic clogs and overpopulation.

Price

Tesla made its regional debut with two flagship cars, Model S and Model X, priced at AED287,000 and AED356,700 for the basic models, excluding taxes and government fees, according to Tesla’s website.

While the UAE has one of the highest GDPs in the Arab world, estimated by the World Bank at $370bn in 2015, other countries lag behind as they struggle with political and economic instability.

For instance, Lebanon’s GDP stands at $47bn, Jordan’s is at $37bn and in North Africa, there are higher GDPs but much larger populations, such as Algeria, whose GDP stands at $166bn, but the country had a population of 39m, as of 2013.

However, Tesla seems to be aware of this factor, which is why its plans for the foreseeable future are limited to the UAE.

Tesla Model X in Dubai

Further reading as proposed by AMEinfo.