Dubai students build solar-powered driverless car

Undergraduate engineers develop autonomous vehicle that could be used for transport on City Walk campus

It took 22 senior students from the university’s school of engineering, applied science and technology to develop the idea.
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Students at the Canadian University in Dubai have collaborated to develop a solar-powered driverless car that could be used for transport between its two campus buildings in City Walk.

Undergraduate engineers worked in teams to develop the vehicle’s navigation system, power capacity and the bodywork and chassis to create a car completely fuelled by the sun's energy.

It took 22 senior students from the university’s school of engineering, applied science and technology to develop the idea and bring it into reality.

The practical application of the students' theoretical knowledge to this real-world project was remarkable
Dr Salih Rashid Majeed

The vehicle is now on display at the university as a proof of concept design, with hopes it could soon take to the roads to serve a practical purpose.

Developed as part of their graduation programme, CUD students worked in five separate technical groups on the project.

Each was responsible for a particular aspect of the manufacturing process, from steering and braking to bodywork design, material selection and suspension system development.

“The greatest challenge was the merging of all the systems into one cohesive car that met our project requirements,” said Feras Usmani, who is studying electrical engineering and mechatronics.

“For example, ensuring the integration of the steering system and enabling the central processing unit to receive commands from the control centres.

“The guidance from our professors, effective student teamwork and strong engineering skills were fundamental to the success of all the car’s developments.”

A team was tasked with the central processing design, managing the vehicle’s controls and handling the inputs received from the camera and light detection and ranging (Lidar) system sensors, which serve as the car’s core intelligence.

Another group was responsible for the supply of power to the on board electronic devices, using the photovoltaic panel installed on the roof to charge the traction battery to deliver a 60-volt power supply.

“Working within such a diverse team has clearly demonstrated to me how we are interdependent upon one another to optimise the functionality of a product,” said Malak Osama, a student of mechatronics.

“My programming and engineering skills have become enhanced over the duration of the project through research, data configuration, working on different software and redefining various systems.

“During my current internship, I find myself applying what I learnt during this project at CUD.”

Autonomous plans

The UAE is a front-runner in implementing driverless vehicle technology, with self-driving cars offering the potential for improved road safety, traffic efficiency and a slash in carbon emissions.

After extensive testing in Abu Dhabi, an autonomous service operated by Txai was launched in December 2021. Chinese firm WeRide expects to have hundreds of vehicles on the roads by 2025 after being granted the UAE’s first preliminary licence to operate self-driving cars.

Meanwhile in Dubai, a fleet of electric cars has completed city-wide mapping for autonomous vehicles in the near future, with a Roads and Transport Authority partnership with US firm Cruise expected to yield 10 driverless taxis by the end of the year.

The university project served as an example of how natural resources could help the transition to autonomous transport.

“The practical application of their theoretical knowledge to this real-world project was remarkable and life-changing for the futures of these students,” said Dr Salih Rashid Majeed, assistant professor in CUD’s school of engineering, applied science and technology.

“The project facilitated a deeper understanding of the true essence of engineering and the significance of teamwork among the students.

“The students have become equipped with valuable interpersonal skills and technical expertise.”

Updated: July 25, 2023, 10:11 AM