There has been notable progress in the rollout of Qatar’s electric vehicle (EV) fleet and the development of autonomous public transport options, prompted by Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV). Around 70% of the bus fleet was electric as of early 2024, according to the Ministry of Transport (MoT), putting it well on its way to reaching its 100% electric fleet target by 2030. There have also been steps taken towards the development of an autonomous fleet of buses following the launch of a new autonomous vehicle (AV) strategy in 2023.


Significant steps have been taken towards the MoT’s electrification goal. Speaking at the inauguration of the MoT’s Sustainable Transportation and Legacy for Generations conference in September 2023, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, the minister of transport, said the ministry was studying the standards and specifications of EVs to provide minimum technical standards and establish an EV inspection and verification centre.

The conference also saw the launch of the MoT’s five-year AV strategy. The strategy was informed by the successful AV pilot scheme that was conducted at the Qatar Foundation campus in 2022. The MoT partnered with transport company Mowasalat and the Qatar Foundation to trial the running of Level 4 autonomous minibuses on the campus along a predetermined 3.2-km route, at a maximum speed of 25 km per hour, over 10 days. No passengers were on board and each bus carried a safety operator to monitor and take control of the vehicle in the case of an emergency. The buses can potentially carry eight passengers and travel up to 40 km per hour, with sensors giving the vehicle visibility of up to 250 metres. The bus battery takes around an hour and a half to fully charge and it can travel 100 km on a single charge.

In another promising development, in January 2024 Mowasalat partnered with Chinese vehicle manufacturer Yutong to test an autonomous electric bus (e-bus) at the Lusail Bus Depot, to be overseen by the MoT. The e-bus runs on clean electricity produced at the depot and emits zero emissions. It is fitted with sensors, high-definition cameras and radar systems. If adopted, the model could be rolled out in several areas of Qatar, in line with the MoT’s AV strategy, QNV and the Qatar National Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

AV Challenges

Several challenges remain in the rollout of AVs in Qatar. To date, there has been limited testing of AVs in Qatar, and the MoT had yet to publicly publish any firm details of its AV strategy as of April 2024. The competition to gain an early-mover advantage in AV deployment is fierce. Several other GCC countries are currently experimenting with the deployment of AVs, with multiple trials of driverless shuttle buses being carried out in Saudi Arabia, including in NEOM, the Kingdom’s mega-city development. In the UAE, Abu Dhabi has conducted trials of autonomous taxis and shuttle buses, while Dubai is piloting AV taxis from General Motors (GM) subsidiary, Cruise, with plans to launch 4000 driverless taxis by 2030. All the AV projects in the region are currently in the testing phase, and neighbouring countries have the opportunity to learn from one another how to deploy their use at scale.

“Several factors contribute to the Gulf region’s favourable conditions for the adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles,” Jack Uppal, President and Managing Director – Africa and Middle East at GM, told OBG. “The region’s young population demonstrates a readiness to embrace evolving technologies and the presence of modern infrastructure is a significant advantage. In addition, the region’s contemporary urban centres allow for collaborative efforts to integrate technology into evolving cityscapes.”

Safety will be the foremost concern for stakeholders involved in the rollout of AVs in Qatar, and the authorities will require certainty that such vehicles can judge hazards and not impact the operations of emergency vehicles. In the short to medium term, Qatar is likely to roll out AVs in controlled areas, such as the Qatar Foundation campus, rather than in urban settings.