Haz-Zebbug-based automobile company Debono Group is supporting research being carried out by the University of Malta’s Department of Spatial Planning and Infrastructure into the introduction of driverless vehicles which use artificial intelligence (AI) in Malta.

Said research project has been dubbed MISAM – Malta’s Introduction of Shared Autonomous Mobility – and investigates the concept of a system of shared driverless vehicles while assessing if it is a viable option for Malta and Gozo from a legal and technical perspective.

Michael Debono / LinkedIn

“Malta’s rapid population growth over the past decade has inevitably brought about an increase in the number of private vehicles on our roads, persistent traffic congestions, and a lack of available parking spaces,” Michael Debono, Debono Group’s Strategic Ventures Director said.

“Emerging technologies and new transport services are now leading towards a change in lifestyle, and it is fair to say that the residents of Malta and Gozo have more transport options,” he continued.

As the discussion now moves towards environmentally sustainable transportation, Mr Debono reinforced the group’s belief that shared mobility initiatives such as Cool Ride-Pooling is key.

“Debono Group’s data for Malta shows that a vehicle operating a ridesharing or carpooling service caters to the needs of up to 70 Maltese commuters a day, whereas one private vehicle can serve one individual,” Mr Debono explained.

The Strategic Ventures Director also pointed out that once autonomous vehicle technology is integrated into shared transport, this service becomes instantly safer, and the number of road traffic accidents caused by driver error decreases.

“This also allows for a drop in the cost of the car or ride-sharing service, which encourages more individuals to travel via a shared ride and unlocks the service’s full potential. Our group, which has been in this industry for the past 70 years, stood by its belief that affordable alternative transport services will eventually encourage drivers to reconsider buying a new vehicle if using alternative transport becomes more financially sustainable,” he said.

“While such ‘revolutions’ in the automotive industry are crucial to human technology, as businesses and private individuals may profit, further research shows the Maltese are not yet ready for autonomous transportation as they have yet to trust the technology. There are also infrastructural challenges, as roads in Malta and Gozo are not yet designed for driverless vehicles, and there is also no legislation on the matter yet,” Mr Debono concluded.

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