Eco-friendly driverless shuttles pass test in Sharjah

Traffic-busting autonomous vehicles helped keep students on the move

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A fleet of driverless shuttles is getting ready to hit the road after a successful trial in Sharjah.

The eco-friendly vehicles, operated by UAE-based smart transport firm Ion, were put through their paces in the sprawling University City of Sharjah education district.

Sharjah Police were on hand to ensure testing was completed safely.

The trial was designed to assess the operational efficiency of the autonomous shuttles in a large area.

The next generation vehicles, which took students between colleges, is equipped with 3D vision, environment recognition, automatic route navigation, sensors and motion-sensor doors.

The smart shuttles are emissions free, wheelchair accessible and can carry up to 15 passengers.

Ion announced a partnership with Navya, a French company which specialises in autonomous transport, for the concept in January.

“I am pleased to announce the successful completion of our Navya autonomous shuttle trials at Sharjah University City," said Ion chairman Khaled Al Huraimel.

"The smart electric shuttles have the potential to offer regular and dependable services within the city, while reducing vehicular traffic and improving air quality.

"We thank the university management and Sharjah Police for their collaboration as we seek mutually beneficial solutions.”

The Navya shuttles are part of a larger fleet that has been in operation in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City for the past two years.

“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," said Khalid bin Butti Al Hajri, director general of the University City of Sharjah.

The project is part of an effort by Ion to make the transport sector more sustainable.

In September, the company announced a partnership with Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority to launch an on-demand ride-hailing service that involves electric vehicles.

It will be available in the emirate by the end of the year and will then begin serving the rest of the UAE.

Ion's electrical vehicles were used to take Sharjah Medical District’s doctors to home visits and coronavirus testing.

They were also used for medicine deliveries by University Hospital Sharjah.

Nationwide, autonomous transport has been high on the agenda for years.

In July, the UAE ranked eighth in KPMG's annual Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, performing well in technology infrastructure and the willingness of its people and government to embrace driverless cars.

The UAE is continuing with its strategy of making 25 per cent of transport autonomous by 2030, a move that began in 2016.

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