The new abra can detect obstacles in the navigational path, notify the control centre of any system defect or deviation from the operating plan Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai has embarked on a trial operation of the ‘First Autonomous Electric Abra’, with a capacity to carry eight riders.

It was manufactured locally at RTA’s Al Garhoud Marine Maintenance Centre, featuring a design that preserve the heritage identity of abras.

The initial journey of this abra took place from Al Jaddaf Station to the Festival City Station on Dubai Creek.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, RTA, said: “The operation of the Autonomous Electric Abra is in line with RTA’s efforts to achieve Dubai’s Strategy for Self-Driving Transport that aims to convert 25 per cent of the total mobility journeys in Dubai into self-driving journeys by 2030. It also contributes to the realisation of Dubai’s master plan to curb carbon emissions of public transport means as per the requirements of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy.”

He added: “The Autonomous Electric Abra boasts superb features highlighted by zero carbon emissions, lower operating and maintenance costs by 30 per cent, and the elimination of noise compared to diesel-powered models. It is equipped with two electric motors with a maximum speed of seven knots.

“It has an autonomous control system and four lithium batteries that ensure an operating time of seven hours. RTA adopted new technologies in designing the structure of the Autonomous Electric Abra and used fibreglass in the hull to reduce the weight.”

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Trial run

During the trial run so far, the Autonomous Electric Abra achieved Level 4 out of the 6 levels of the international autonomy levels for ship design and operation. The trials, which were carried out in cooperation with Exalto Emirates and Marakeb companies, included operating and running fully autonomous procedures independent of the captain, who acts only as operation supervisor to intervene only if needed.

The autonomous procedures ensure 100 per cent adherence to the predetermined line given the effects of the waves and wind. The procedures also detect obstacles in the navigational path, notify the control centre of any system defect or deviation from the operating plan, intervene if the abra faces an obstacle during the journey, and programme additional scenarios to cope with the situation.

“RTA will develop automated anchoring operations and scenarios for making decisions during manoeuvring and emergency, follow up the maturity of the system to reach Level 5 of autonomy levels and coordinate with the Dubai Maritime City Authority in matters related to the legislation of autonomous marine means,” said Al Tayer.

Master plan

“RTA has developed a master plan to develop the marine transport means, which is vital for the smooth mobility in the emirate. Marine transport ferried about 16 million riders in 2022. The plan includes the development of four traditional abra stations in Dubai Creek namely Bur Dubai, Deira Old Souk, Dubai Old Souk, and Al Sabkha Stations. The plan envisages increasing the capacity of the abra stations by 33 per cent, using advanced technologies to reduce maintenance costs and increase the lifespan of assets, improving the lighting of stations and marinas, and providing facilities for customers and investment areas.