Masdar City’s autonomous vehicle. The shuttle will run on a 1km-route and seven more vehicles will be added to the fleet by the next year. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s flagship sustainable urban development, officially launched an autonomous shuttle vehicle on Monday.

The autonomous shuttle supplied by Navya, a French company, represents the next phase of the city’s sustainable mobility network as it already has a Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) system in place.

The shuttle is a self-driving electric vehicle dedicated to first and last-mile transportation. It carries up to 12 people, with eight seated, is fully autonomous and has a top speed of 25km/h.


Video: Binsal Abdul Kader/Gulf News

Having successfully completed a rigorous pilot phase, the Navya shuttle will shortly begin a regular all-day service linking Masdar City’s parking areas with its main podium. The service will be the first operational use of the technology in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena). “With urban mobility at the forefront of the sustainability conversation in the UAE and worldwide, and with the business, residential and research community here at Masdar City continuing to flourish, Masdar is building on its legacy as a catalyst for clean-tech innovation to bring cutting-edge and commercially viable autonomous mobility to the streets of Masdar City,” said Yousuf Baselaib, executive director for Sustainable Real Estate at Masdar.

“Masdar City’s iconic Personal Rapid Transit system, which has carried more than two million passengers in eight years of operations, established a benchmark for driverless and sustainable mobility in the UAE,” Baselaib added.

The interior of the autonomous vehicle. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Working closely with the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport and Navya Group, the shuttle was customised to mitigate the effects of the Gulf region’s extreme heat and humidity on battery performance. Rigorous health and safety testing was also carried out to safeguard passengers and pedestrians.

The vehicle uses on-board cameras and sensitive Lidar sensors creating 3D and 2D “perception maps” to detect obstacles and their position relative to the vehicle. GPS technology further allows the vehicle to define its precise location, while its V2X technology allows it to communicate with traffic lights.

At Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018 in January, Navya was selected as the winner of a global industry competition to supply Masdar City with the latest models of autonomous electric vehicles.

Implementation of Masdar City’s wider transportation strategy will see the arrival of a fleet of seven shuttles from next year.

Capable of transporting up to 12 people, the shuttle was inaugurated in the presence of dignitaries representing the Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi Police and the French Embassy.

Khaled Al Qubaisi, chief executive officer for Aerospace, Renewables & ICT at Mubadala Investment Company; Mohammad Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar (Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company); and Jérôme Rigaud, Deputy CEO of the Navya Group also attended the event.