UAE-based sustainable transport company ION has started operating a fully autonomous shuttle serving public commuters along the Ajman Corniche, the first development of its kind in the UAE and the wider region. .
Prior to the launch of this route, autonomous vehicles were generally limited to non-public roads and trails within closed communities and campuses. In a first for the region, the autonomous shuttle runs on a public road, between the Fairmont hotel and the Coral Beach hotel on the Ajman corniche.
To ensure the safety of commuters, the shuttle is equipped with a range of deep learning technologies, including V2X (all-around vehicle), 3D vision and environmental recognition, automatic route navigation, IoT sensors and motion sensor doors.
Its intelligent monitoring system detects and monitors the vehicle’s surroundings as it receives traffic light and traffic light data, while sending notifications when the shuttle approaches pedestrian crossing lines. The shuttle is also emissions-free, wheelchair accessible and has a capacity of 15 passengers.
The Autonomous Shuttle Project is a partnership between ION, the Ajman-based accelerator Ajman X, and the UAE-based multinational telecommunications service provider, Etisalat. ION is a joint venture between Bee’ah, the pioneer of sustainability in the Middle East, and Crescent Enterprises, based in Sharjah.
ION is also the region’s exclusive supplier for autonomous shuttles to the French company Navya, a leader in the design and manufacture of self-driving solutions. Navya shuttles are currently operational in 22 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, thanks to the partnership with ION.
For the Ajman Corniche project, ION used its expertise in the end-to-end commissioning of Navya shuttles. Previously, the green mobility company introduced autonomous shuttles to Masdar City, where it has been serving commuters since 2018.
In late 2020, ION also completed a successful pilot phase in the university town of Sharjah, and its autonomous shuttles now serve students and other commuters around campus. With the launch of the Autonomous Shuttle along the Ajman Corniche, ION has taken another step towards cleaner, greener and smarter public transport systems in the United Arab Emirates.
Nasir Al Shamsi, Director of Sustainable Mobility at Bee’ah, said: “We hope that this development towards sustainable transport in Ajman is the first in a long series in the United Arab Emirates. The shuttle demonstrates that autonomous technology is not only sustainable but also scalable to meet future demands. The shuttles are equipped with smart features such as communicating with signals and pickup points to start moving and stop automatically.
“Since these shuttles are also integrated with advanced route management tools, we can seamlessly schedule more points of interest and expand routes in the future. Electric and autonomous shuttles will play an important role in reducing vehicle emissions and in realizing the United Arab Emirates’ Net-Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. At the same time, it is a safe, quiet and comfortable transportation option for commuters.
Recently, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted that the United Arab Emirates would start testing autonomous vehicles on public roads. This makes the United Arab Emirates the first country in the Middle East and the second country in the world to do so.
Khaled Al Huraimel, CEO of Bee’ah Group, said: “I applaud the country’s leadership in this initiative, which demonstrates a commitment to ensuring safe, reliable and sustainable autonomous driving solutions for the UAE. It will also support Dubai’s 2030 target of making 25% of all road trips driverless and contribute to the UAE’s strategic Net-Zero initiative by 2050. Thanks to ION, Bee’ah looks forward to accelerating the transition to driverless transport and a clean energy future in the United Arab Emirates.
The Ajman Corniche shuttle serves commuters on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. On November 15, His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, United Arab Emirates Cabinet Minister for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, visited Ajman Corniche to catch the first autonomous shuttle from the region. Senior executives from Ajman X and ION welcomed the Minister and briefed him on the technical, operational and environmental benefits of the project.
ION will continue to enable route management and the operation of the autonomous shuttle. The company is exploring other opportunities to implement greener and more sustainable public transport solutions in Ajman and the United Arab Emirates.