Abu Dhabi attracts global companies to its smart transport cluster in industrial push

Joby Aviation, WeRide and Marakeb to join emirate's newly established Smart and Autonomous Vehicle Industry cluster, Adio says

A Bayanat Autonomous Vehicle on display. Smart & Autonomous Vehicle Industry (SAVI) Cluster. Strategic Abu Dhabi initiative on the future of transportation and mobility. Mohamed bin Zayed University of AI, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Abu Dhabi has attracted three global and local companies to join a newly established cluster for the development of high-tech vehicles, as the emirate seeks to boost its industrial sector, create jobs and further diversify the economy.

California-based electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation, Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up WeRide and the UAE's unmanned maritime systems company Marakeb Technologies will join the Smart and Autonomous Vehicles Industry (Savi) cluster in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) said in three separate statements on Sunday.

Marakeb Technologies will become the first anchor company to develop maritime applications at Savi, where it will trial new technology at the cluster’s sea testing zone in Mussafah Port.

“The next phase of Abu Dhabi’s industrial development has arrived. The Emirate’s Savi cluster launches with immediate scale and will bring about a new wave of solutions in the field of autonomy across air, land and sea," Badr Al-Olama, acting director general of Adio, said.

"The addition of companies like Marakeb will also be a catalyst for the growth of related industries, both within and beyond the cluster, boosting the local industrial base and knowledge economy.”

The Savi cluster, which was announced on October 13 by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, will develop smart and autonomous vehicles for air, land and sea use.

It 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 last week.

The move comes as the UAE strives to increase the contribution of its industrial sector to the gross domestic product, develop advanced technologies in manufacturing, introduce smart mobility into the mainstream market and work on sustainable transport systems.

As a local company, "Marakeb will support the development and growth of the cluster by providing its autonomous solutions and technical knowledge to enable the next generation of smart vehicle solutions”, Basel Shuhaiber, chief executive of Marakeb, said.

Adio is also collaborating with China's WeRide, which is set to establish its regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi’s Savi cluster, it said.

Savi has "attracted global companies and talent to promote innovate solutions that shape the future of transportation and mobility sector," Mr Al-Olama said.

"Through innovate global players, we will make a real impact across the world, helping us all achieve a zero-emissions future.”

WeRide, which is trialling autonomous cars in the UAE, aims to rapidly expand its presence in the country with plans to have hundreds of vehicles on the roads by 2025, the company told The National in July.

It received the UAE’s first preliminary licence to operate self-driving cars, which will allow it to trial all its vehicles – including robotaxis, robobuses, robovans and robosweepers – in the country.

"Tapping on to our strategic partnership with Adio and existing local presence, we are excited to further join forces with Abu Dhabi to promote [autonomous vehicles] AV commercialisation, expand operation areas and pave the way for the implementation of new AV policies and regulations," Jennifer Li, chief financial officer of WeRide, said in a statement on Sunday.

US-based Joby Aviation, which is developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service, will also open regional operations in Savi, Adio said.

The company, which plans to launch commercial passenger services using its piloted five-seat aircraft in 2025, expects to establish a presence in the cluster to develop the technology that will enable it to fly its aircraft autonomously in the future, Adio said.

"Joby Aviation adds further scale and specialisation to the cluster and will be a catalyst for the accelerated development of air mobility applications," Mr Al-Olama said.

"As the cluster grows, the positive impact on the broader Abu Dhabi economy will be felt in related industries such as manufacturing, software development, logistics, and testing and certification.”

Adio will support Joby Aviation by connecting it with relevant partners across emirate, including regulators, relevant government departments and potential investors, it said.

"Autonomous flight has the potential to unlock important benefits for our customers over the long term,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and chief executive of Joby Aviation.

Companies located at the cluster will have access to academia, sandboxes, R&D labs, testing and certification facilities, large scale workshops, hangars, manufacturing facilities and global logistics.

Updated: October 15, 2023, 3:09 PM