x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Masdar City sets its pod cars in motion

Underneath the jumble of cranes and scores of construction workers, the narrow, shaded streets around the Masdar Institute are taking shape.

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government's clean energy firm, gave a sneak preview yesterday of what life will be like in its groundbreaking carbon-neutral city when the first residents move in later this year. Underneath the jumble of cranes and scores of construction workers, the narrow, shaded streets around the Masdar Institute are taking shape, with futuristic electric pod cars already up and running.

Students and faculty will start work in the science labs in May and move into 100 apartments in June. Residents will be encouraged to walk as much as possible on Masdar City's narrow streets, which resemble the twisting back alleys of an old Arab city. The city is built on a platform 7.5 metres off the ground to create space for the transit system and storage space underneath. "As soon as you remove the car, you start getting to the traditional ways of cooling the climate," said Austin Relton, a partner at Foster and Partners, the city's architect.

When the heat becomes too much to bear, residents can descend to air-conditioned transit stations on the ground and board small, driverless cars to one of several surrounding stops. The cars are perhaps the most futuristic element of the city. By the middle of this year, 10 of the vehicles will be moving passengers from the city's car park. Three additional vehicles will move freight. The cars follow pre-programmed routes and are guided by magnetic sensors buried in the concrete floor, said Masara Alameri, the department manager for urban planning.

"It's been specifically designed for Masdar City," she said. "It's more like a taxi on demand." The vehicles move at a top speed of only 40kph, with no trip expected to take more than two to three minutes, Ms Alameri said. Two stations are working so far, with two more scheduled to open. The Institute will be completed this year, allowing builders to turn their attention to the mix of adjacent residential and commercial developments, said Muir Livingstone, of Foster and Partners. The next developments include three office buildings, 200 apartments and 18 townhouses, he said.

Sameer Abu Zaid, the infrastructure manager for power generation, said Masdar plans to increase the capacity of the city's on-site solar panels by 20 per cent. This boost in output will make sure the energy fuelling the project's rapid construction still comes from renewable sources. cstanton@thenational.ae