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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

The Navya shuttle has launched at Masdar City - a driverless bus to ferry residents and workers between town and the car park. Reem Mohammed / The National 

Abu Dhabi's Masdar City launches self-driving shuttle service

Sustainable eco-neighbourhood Masdar City has launched a self-driving shuttle bus in what transports bosses have called a key moment in the history of transport in the region.

The Navya Autonom Shuttle can transport up to 12 people at a time and has a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour.

It will provide a continuous, all-day service between the parking area and the main podium for the 4,500 people who live and work in Masdar City.

Ibrahim Sarhan Alhmoudi, acting executive director of the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport’s Surface Transport Sector, who said he expects self-driving transport such as this to become a staple of everyday life by the end of the next decade.

He also said that reducing road fatalities is a priority for the Department of Transport and that “more than 94 per cent of car accidents and fatalities are due to human error”.

“We believe if we can eliminate the need for drivers we will eliminate the risk and improve the quality of life for all of us,” he said.

One of the benefits of self-driving vehicles is that, as they become more of a normal part of life, commuters will be able to free up the time they spend concentrating on the road to do other things.

“You could spend that quality time with your kids on the way to school or preparing for a meeting,” he said.

“This technology will provide huge social benefits.”

The new shuttle uses on-board cameras and sensors to create “perception maps” to detect obstacles and their position relative to the vehicle. GPS technology further allows the vehicle to define its precise location, as well as communicate with traffic lights.

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“Masdar City is built on the three pillars of economic, societal and environmental sustainability and the introduction of our first Navya vehicle perfectly illustrates this philosophy in action,” said Yousef Baselaib, executive director for Sustainable Real Estate at Masdar.

“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.”

Mr Badeslaib said the shuttle was the natural follow-up to Masdar City’s Personal Rapid Transport System, driverless pods that have carried more than two million passengers around the city over the last eight years.

“The introduction of our first Navya shuttle represents the next exciting phase of the city’s mobility journey,” he said.

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

There plans for there to be seven shuttles out on the roads from next year and the shuttle route map will be expanded over time to connect the Etihad Eco Residence complex above Masdar City’s car park with the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency and Majid Al Futtaim’s My City Centre Masdar shopping mall, due for completion in the first half of 2019.