Israel’s Mobileye, Dubai-based Al Habtoor Group partner on self-driving cars

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Israel’s Mobileye and United Arab Emirate’s Al Habtoor Group launched a partnership on Wednesday to create a fleet of self-driving “robotaxis” that could take to the streets of Dubai by the end of 2022.

The deal is the latest collaboration to emerge after last week’s historic accord between Israel and the UAE to normalize relations, though the companies began talking several months ago before news of a diplomatic breakthrough was made public.

Jerusalem-based Mobileye, Intel Corp’s autonomous car division, already has agreements to deploy its technology in cities in Japan, South Korea, France and Israel, and says Dubai was a natural choice.

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“Dubai is one of the most advanced cities in world,” Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua told Reuters. “It is classic territory to launch technologies for smart cities and very natural to have Dubai for deploying autonomous cars.”

The companies will start by equipping 1,000 cars with Mobileye’s system to map Dubai and collect data.

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Testing of the autonomous vehicles will begin in 2021 and a pilot program is expected by the end of 2022. A commercial service is planned for 2023 with a target of a few hundred vehicles within five years.

“It’s a multi-million-dollar deal in the next year or two, and once mobility as a service is employed, the sky is the limit,” said Shashua, declining to share specific financial details.

Habtoor Group, a family-owned, Dubai-based conglomerate whose portfolio includes the automotive, construction and hospitality sectors, said this week it would open an office in Israel.

It is also in talks with airline Israir to launch direct commercial flights to the UAE.

Shashua said they picked Habtoor because it offers “infrastructure, garages, maintenance, and can work with us on regulatory issues in Dubai.”

Intel forecasts robotaxis will be a $160 billion market by 2030.

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