Uber fuels the safety, technology and innovation agenda at the inaugural ‘Ignite’ MENA event


The virtual event brought together thought leaders, regulators and innovators to collectively address current urban challenges

Uber has launched the ‘Ignite’ series – a platform intended to fuel conversation and inspire solutions to the urban challenges facing the MENA region. Ignite’s inaugural ‘Tech for Transport Safety’ panel took place on January 26th and focused on the evolution of safety in technology across multiple modes of transport.

The event was moderated by Sherif Amer, the renowned Lead Anchor at MBC Masr. Representatives on the panel included Naif T. Bin Hwail – GM Safety and Service Monitoring at Transport General Authority (TGA) in KSA; Karl Jeanbart – COO and Co-founder at Derq; Harj Dhaliwal – MD at Virgin Hyperloop; Ali El Atrash – Co-Founder & COO at Trella; Gary West – MD; OnStar Middle East Operations & Future Mobility at General Motors AMEA; and Rebecca Payne, Senior Safety & Insurance Product Manager at Uber.

Commenting on the event, Abdellatif Waked, General Manager of Uber Middle East and Africa said: “Innovative technology is shaping the future of urban mobility, influencing what it will look like and how it will impact the movement of people. At Uber, we believe we can collectively play a role in maximizing tech-focused opportunities for growth in our communities that’s why we launched Ignite – an event specifically dedicated for the MENA region.”
“Safety is our number one priority,” added Rebecca Payne, Senior Safety and Insurance Product Manager at Uber. “We have a team dedicated to building technology, enforcing policies, and operationalizing new programs to both prevent and respond to all types of safety incidents – from dangerous driving to interpersonal conflicts, and now with the added expectations for health and hygiene. I’m happy to see how our global safety efforts take part in local discussions to help enhance safety measures across the MENA region.”
Key discussion takeaways:

Safety is a collaborative effort between all parties
The Ignite panelists stressed on the importance of different entities working together in order to find tangible solutions to ensure a safer environment for all. Naif from TGA stated how technology has successfully contributed to transport safety in KSA thanks to increasing number collaborations and consultations between the public and the private sector. In fact, as a direct result, TGA reduced road fatalities by 20% in 2020 alone.

Smart cities are founded on a connected ecosystem
Smart cities put data and digital technology at the forefront of urbanization and enable authorities to make better decisions as a result. Karl at Derq stressed how AI models using 5G and IoT technologies are transforming the infrastructure and road safety by extracting data from road sensors and feeding that into a real time network. The consistent feedback loop and connectivity is essential to autonomous vehicles and requires support from regulators to enable the infrastructure.

Technology can inspire behavioral change
Today, technology is being used to improve the way people behave in certain situations. Gary from GM stated that technology can help identify the behavioral style of a driver and potentially protect against a future collision. Ali from Trella agreed and added that the majority of truck road accidents happen due to human error, and with the right technology driving behavioral change, autonomous vehicles can help address this and reduce fatalities significantly.

Regulators enable the use of new technology
When it comes to introducing new technologies, TGA’s Naif said that insights from the private sector help them assess the technology from both an economic and a service point of view to decide how and where it fits within the current infrastructure. Harj at Virgin Hyperloop advised that regulators and investors should be conscious of not being led by past experiences, instead utilizing the learnings from those experiences to enable innovation to move forward.

The role of technology in protecting and supporting communities is vital. Therefore, in the following Ignite discussions, Uber will continue fueling conversations that forge collaborative solutions for growth in our communities.

About Uber:
Uber’s mission is to create opportunity through movement. We started in 2010 to solve a simple problem: how do you get access to a ride at the touch of a button? More than 15 billion trips later, we’re building products to get people closer to where they want to be. By changing how people, food, and things move through cities, Uber is a platform that opens up the world to new possibilities.