Abu Dhabi's new transport initiative to contribute $33bn to UAE GDP and create 50,000 jobs

The Smart and Autonomous Vehicles Industry cluster at Masdar City will develop high-tech vehicles for air, land and sea use

Badr Al Olama, acting director general of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, delivering a keynote at the launch of the Smart and Autonomous Vehicle Industry cluster in Abu Dhabi on Friday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Abu Dhabi has started a programme aimed at establishing the emirate as a major centre for the development of high-tech vehicles, to further diversify the economy and create thousands of jobs.

The Smart and Autonomous Vehicles Industry (Savi) cluster, centred around clean energy hub Masdar City, will develop smart and autonomous vehicles for air, land and sea use, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (Added) said on Friday.

The multi-modal hub is expected to contribute between Dh90 billion and Dh120 billion ($24.5 billion to $32.7 billion) to the UAE's economy and generate up to 50,000 jobs, officials said.

Savi is the next pivotal phase in Abu Dhabi's industrial revolution, which will drive its transition towards a smart, circular, and sustainable economy, the authorities said.

“As a catalyst for Abu Dhabi’s diversification, Savi is a game-changer that will unleash extraordinary economic growth and create new opportunities for talent, entrepreneurs and investors,” said Ahmed Al Zaabi, chairman of Added.

Advanced infrastructure and centres will be set up to incubate disruptive technologies and start-ups from around the world under the programme.

There will also be collaboration with other governments, regulatory agencies and manufacturers to advance the smart mobility sector.

The testing of vehicles that will be developed at the cluster will be conducted at dedicated sites at the Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island and Musaffah Port, respectively.

Abu Dhabi is being positioned to “take charge in propelling the future of mobility”, Badr Al Olama, acting director general of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, said at the Savi launch.

“We promise the future where accessibility, mobility and sustainability would converge seamlessly, elevating the quality of life for us and everyone around us.”

Smart mobility is the integration of advanced technology and data-driven solutions to create efficient, sustainable and user-centric transport systems.

The global smart mobility sector is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of more than 21 per cent to about $404 billion by 2032, from $48.54 billion in 2022, data from Spherical Insights & Consulting shows.

Meanwhile, the world's self-driving vehicle market is expected to hit $93.3 billion by 2028, from $33.48 billion this year, at a compound annual growth rate of about 23 per cent, according to Mordor Intelligence.

The UAE has sought to become a leader in smart mobility systems as part of its efforts to promote and integrate sustainability.

A number of initiatives have been introduced to bring about driverless services. This is one pillar that makes Abu Dhabi “well positioned” to be at the forefront of becoming full-fledged smart cities, Thierry Lestable, executive director of the AI and Digital Science Research Centre at Abu Dhabi's Technology Innovation Institute told The National last year.

The UAE capital has its own fleet of driverless taxis on Yas Island run by TXAI. During last year's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, TXAI operated a driverless bus service to carry fans.

The emirate is also moving ahead with drone delivery trial programmes.

This week, the Autonomous Rapid Transit vehicles, a new tram-like electric bus, began operations in Abu Dhabi.

The emirate is “doubling down” on all these efforts with the launch of Savi, Mr Al Olama said.

Savi “embodies a beacon of hope, a future that is full of possibilities. It's a call to action for us to unite and meet the most pressing challenges of transportation with courage and conviction”, he said.

Its launch also comes in the lead up to the Cop28 climate change conference, which will be hosted by the UAE next month.

Savi is backed by Abu Dhabi's biggest organisations. Masdar City, Tawazun Industrial Park, Miral and Maqta Gateway, part of AD Ports Group’s Digital Cluster, will enable the infrastructure and support services to accelerate applications across air, land, and sea vehicles.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, General Civil Aviation Authority, Integrated Transport Centre and Abu Dhabi Maritime, meanwhile, are joining forces to certify autonomous vehicle operations across the emirate.

The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, Technology Innovation Institute, Khalifa University and Hub71 will be collaborating on research and innovation to foster new autonomous vehicle technologies.

“Savi was designed to bring the ecosystem together and we've looked at international benchmarks,” said Nayef Shahin, director of innovation and knowledge at Added.

Updated: October 15, 2023, 11:05 AM