The economy that is Dubai (a different kind of driverless car)

by on May 23, 2013 at 7:06 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

Thousands of the finest automobiles ever made are now being abandoned every year since Dubai’s financial meltdown, left by expatriates and locals alike who flee in a hurry because they face crippling debts. With big loans to repay to the banks (unpaid debt or even bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence in Dubai), the panicked car owners make their way to the airport at top speeds and leave their vehicles in the car park, hopping on the next flight out of there, never to return…

Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes are regularly abandoned at the car park of Dubai International Airport, some with loan documents and apology notes simply left on the windscreen and in some cases with the keys still in the ignition.

…Residents complain about the unsightly vehicles hogging parking spaces at the airport and sitting slumped outside their fancy yacht clubs– it’s like, so not a good look.

There is more here, hat tip goes @jscarantino.  By the way, a 19-year-old in Romania may have just made driverless cars significantly cheaper.

1 Mike H May 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

At least in UAE women can drive those cars, unlike in Saudi Arabia where they would go to jail for doing that.

On another note, if the advancement of control automation and autopilot technology in aviation is any indication, we are unlikely to see many driverless cars in the future. Autopilots on all modern airliners and many GA aircrafts are highly sophisticated and they control 80%+ of the flight in average, yet most pilots and experts in that area would laugh at the idea of turning any aircraft with real passengers into an UAV.

2 Keith May 23, 2013 at 9:32 am

“… yet most pilots and experts in that area would laugh at the idea of turning any aircraft with real passengers into an UAV”
Is it because they want to keep their jobs? Typical commuters in cars don’t want to keep their “jobs”. I would love it if my car drove itself so I could be occupied with other things.

3 Rahul May 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

The commercial aircraft industry has hardly been a model of innovation. Legacy compliance, FAA certification, few competitors, extreme risk aversion etc. are all fairly unique factors that differentiate aircraft autopilots from the current wave of car automation.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the auto-driving technology that goes into a car is way more sophisticated than what goes into a legacy aircraft autopilot.

4 anon May 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

Though they’ve cut back the crew required to fly as autopilots are getting better. There used to have to be an additional 1-2 people up in the cockpit.

5 Jonas May 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

+1. People way overrate the prospect of self driving cars. Pilots don’t want to turn aircraft into UAVs because they feel responsible for human lives. The idea that robots will handle the chaos of the roads better than humans can is a utopian fantasy. It’s really the same germ of the idea that governments or top down control can handle the chaos of human society better than markets or local distributed control. It’s just easier to fall prey to because people don’t know how algorithms work (by magic!), and they now know how government/bureaucracies do.

6 Marian Kechlibar May 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

“The idea that robots will handle the chaos of the roads better than humans can”

No, the idea is that robots will one day handle the chaos of the roads better than an average human driver, which is quite plausible. Your average human driver isn’t that good.

7 mrpinto May 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Google’s driverless car ALREADY has a better safety record than the average human. It’s not a utopian fantasy, it’s real and it has driven on real roads in the United States.

8 mrpinto May 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Google’s auto-driving car and the auto-pilot in a jet are like a brand new Macbook pro compared to your old watch-battery powered pocket calculator. There’s no comparison.

Whenever you hear “auto-pilot” for a plane, think “cruise control” not “driving robot.” An auto-pilot can do more than just maintain speed, but it’s much more limited in scope and function than the Google efforts have been on land.

9 RPLong May 23, 2013 at 9:07 am

Auction them abroad, make a killing…

10 peter May 23, 2013 at 9:15 am

Transportation in Dubai: from camels to BMW’s to camels in 20 years.

11 affenkopf May 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

Back to camels in another 20.

12 affenkopf May 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

I should read the complete sentence before I reply.

13 Urso May 23, 2013 at 10:20 am

Camels – the original self-driving technology.

14 x May 23, 2013 at 9:47 am

I see a business opportunity in smuggling those out.

15 Affe May 23, 2013 at 10:30 am

I see “Fast and Furious, Dubai”, except slower paced since no one really gives a crap, the owner’s gone.

16 Urso May 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

“(unpaid debt or even bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence in Dubai)”

Unintended consequences, anyone?

17 Andrew' May 23, 2013 at 10:43 am

I can haz Lambourger?

18 Andrew' May 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

I dream of Lambourgenie

19 Artimus May 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

In my opinion this article is a bit behind the times. Yes around 2009 there were a lot of abandoned vehicles as the bubble burst and over extended expats decided to do a “runner”. But the economy has been growing steadily for the last few years and I have not noticed as many discarded vehicles as I used to. Although there was a strange convertible kit car left in front of my building and finally towed last month.
Due to various factors Dubai economy has been doing much better lately and getting its mojo back. Whether this is sustainable or merely another bubble remains to be seen.

20 Careless May 23, 2013 at 11:19 am

In my opinion this article is a bit behind the times.
And not the first time Tyler has linked to a story like this.

21 ac May 23, 2013 at 11:55 am

Wait, I thought that was the Intel Science Fair, not the Intel Engineering Fair

22 RR May 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

The current name seems to be Science AND Engineering Fair. Signs of the times?

23 tylerh May 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I clearly missed your joke, but to clarify:

ISEF stands for Intel Science and Engineering Fair. Both Science and Engineering projects are judges alongside one another in the same categories, albeit to slightly different judging criteria.

24 Matthieu May 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

So 2009, slow day on MR?

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