Following the results of a global industry competition launched at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week last year, Masdar, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, has selected autonomous vehicle producer NAVYA as the most technically and commercially qualified contestant for the next phase of the mobility network of Masdar City.
The iconic driverless vehicle network currently serving the sustainable urban community will be expanded along a new one-kilometre route.
Since 2010, the world’s first permanent Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) system has ferried more than 2 million passengers between the city’s North Car Park and the Masdar Institute, part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
Now a new fleet of autonomous vehicles will link the institute with the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and a new shopping mall under construction.
This new technology is differentiated from current technology due to vehicle infrastructure technology that communicates directly with traffic lights, integration with pedestrians as opposed to an isolated track and outdoor operation in the Abu Dhabi environment.
NAVYA was chosen from a global competition for the sophistication and cost efficiency of its proposed technology. Demonstration vehicles similar to those being deployed at Masdar City in 2018 were on show at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
“With its community of residents, visitors, business tenants and office workers continuing to grow, Masdar City will be at the forefront of sustainable mobility innovation,” said Yousef Baselaib, Executive Director for Sustainable Real Estate at Masdar.
“The rapid advances in mobility technology over the last decade have allowed us to re-examine the transport needs and road configuration of the city to find the best solution to serve its expanding population. This expansion will result in the world’s first outdoor large scale sustainable transportation system, ” added Baselaib. “We’re excited to be working with NAVYA on the next phase of Masdar City’s sustainable mobility network.”
Electric and autonomous vehicles have made great strides in recent years as battery performance, safety and reliability continue to improve. IRENA estimates that lithium ion battery costs will drop by as much as two-thirds by 2030, while new research to be released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance tomorrow at ADSW 2018 estimates that electric vehicles sales will more than triple by 2021, and that half of all vehicles sold annually by 2040 will be electric.
Christian Le Borgne, NAVYA’s Chief Operations Officer said, “We are very excited to have been chosen by Masdar City as a transportation partner for the expansion of the PRT system. Masdar City is a globally known project and a leader in transportation and sustainability. We believe that we have created a product that is ideal for urban transportation – autonomous, electric, safe, reliable, and economic.”
“We understand the challenges of the climate regarding battery performance and passenger comfort and have customized our vehicle to meet the demanding specifications of Masdar City and its residents and visitors,” he added.
A period of contracting, DOT approvals, testing and commissioning will start immediately. This will likely include a pilot that will enable the public to get an early look at the new technology. Road improvements will be carried out at Masdar City over the next 12 months to accommodate its new driverless vehicles, while safety tests will be carried out in coordination with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport. The expanded mobility network is expected to come on stream in 2019.
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport advised Masdar on its sustainable mobility competition unveiled at ADSW 2017.
Khaled Al Hashim, Executive Director of Surface Transportation, said: “NAVYA is an excellent partner to deliver the next phase of Masdar City’s mobility network. Masdar City is an ideal test bed for electric vehicle technology and other advanced mobility solutions using alternative energy sources, whether for public or private use.”