ION completes successful trial of electric autonomous shuttles at Sharjah University City
The trial, which was overseen by Sharjah Police for traffic and safety reasons, was designed to assess the operational efficiency of the driverless shuttles’ capabilities within the educational district.
In addition to facilitating carbon-neutral mobility within the educational zone, the University City of Sharjah – which is among the world’s largest integrated educational district in the world – has the optimal infrastructure for operating next-generation technologies such as the autonomous electric vehicles. The experience also provided students with a practical example of future technologies while inspiring the UAE’s younger generation to channel their potential and creativity for the future.
Intended to help students commute between colleges, the shuttles are equipped with a range of deep learning technologies, including 3D vision and environment recognition; automatic route navigation; IoT sensors for optimal safety, and motion-sensor doors. Driving seamless, smart, and sustainable mobility, the smart shuttles are emissions-free, wheelchair-accessible and have a capacity of 15 passengers.
HE Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah and Chairman at ION, said: “I am pleased to announce the successful completion of our NAVYA autonomous shuttle trials at Sharjah University City. The smart electric shuttles have the potential to offer regular and dependable services within the city, while reducing vehicular traffic and improving air quality.”
Commenting on ION’s vision for smart, sustainable transport, Al Huraimel added: “ION is committed to dramatically transforming human movement and shared mobility solutions, while driving rapid and mass adoption of electric vehicles to limit vehicular exhaust emissions, reduce air pollution and encourage a more sustainable quality of life here in the UAE. We thank the university management and Sharjah Police for their collaboration as we seek to find mutually beneficial solutions.”
The NAVYA shuttles are part of a larger fleet that has been operating at Masdar City since October 2018. ION announced a partnership with NAVYA, a leading company in autonomous driving systems, in January this year, to develop the concept of shared autonomous transport to the MENA region for the first time.
HE Khalid bin Butti Al Hajri, Director General of the University City of Sharjah said: “This unique project is in line with the directive of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to invest in Sharjah’s knowledge-based economy, as well as the technology and sustainability sectors. The University City in Sharjah was selected as a site for the pilot trial because it is a leading education and research and development hub in the Middle East.”
He added: “Our mandate at the University City is to improve the quality of the educational experience, while focusing on creativity and innovation. As part of this quest, it is vital to conduct advanced research and development projects and adopt future technologies that ensure we keep pace with modern trends. This mindset ensures that our educational district competes with prestigious universities globally.
Speaking of the partnership with ION, Al Hajri continued: “The autonomous shuttles pilot trial with ION enables us to enrich our students’ experience, exploring the possibility of advanced means of mobility solutions within the University City, and contributing to the preservation of the environment. We would like to thank ION, the sustainable transportation company under the Bee’ah Group, which pioneers sustainability in the Middle East, and Sharjah Police for their contribution to this successful pilot trial.”
NAVYA AUTONOM shuttles are a globally proven first-and-last-mile transportation solution. The concept fits with ION’s vision for environmental sustainability and the development of a zero-emissions transportation network in the UAE and wider region.
The Sharjah University City trials are the latest in a series of initiatives by ION to further the sustainability agenda for regional transport. In September, ION announced a partnership with Sharjah Roads & Transport Authority (Sharjah RTA), which coincided with World Electric Vehicle Day, to launch a new on-demand ride-hailing service in Sharjah, with a fleet of electric vehicles. The service will be available for the emirate of Sharjah by the end of 2020 and will expand to the rest of the UAE thereafter.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, ION’s electric vehicles and drivers were deployed, pro bono, for the transport of Sharjah Medical District’s doctors to facilitate home visits and COVID-19 testing. ION’s electric fleet was also utilised for medicine logistics services by University Hospital Sharjah for fast and efficient deliveries.