Hamed bin Zayed witnesses launch of UAE’s first driverless autonomous vehicle, signing of AED 170-million operating Agreement for EBTIC

Hamed bin Zayed witnesses launch of UAE’s first driverless autonomous vehicle, signing of AED 170-million operating Agreement for EBTIC

ABU DHABI, 27th November, 2021 (WAM) -- H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University of Science and Technology, witnessed the launch of the Khalifa University autonomous vehicle (AV), the UAE’s first driverless, autonomous 12-seater shuttle that will transport students and staff around the Sas Al Nakhl Campus.

He also attended the signing of an AED170-million operating agreement for the Emirates ICT Innovation Centre (EBTIC) by the three founders Khalifa University, Etisalat, and BT (U.K.), in addition to UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).

Khalifa University has thus become the first university in the UAE to deploy an AV on campus that can also run in ‘real environment’ off campus, bringing smart sustainable mobility to the community and contributing to the UAE’s sustainable development initiatives.

The driverless and 100% electric shuttle is one of the first-ever autonomous vehicles to be deployed in the UAE in a ‘mixed traffic mode’, as it can drive on the road with other cars. T he environment-friendly shared transportation solution will also provide a research and development platform to faculty and researchers at the Khalifa University Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (KU-CARS), to investigate autonomous driving in challenging scenarios.

With around 50 researchers and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, KU-CARS provides a vibrant multidisciplinary environment for conducting robotics and autonomous vehicle-related research and innovation.

Sheikh Hamed said: "The autonomous vehicle at Khalifa University’s SAN Campus reflects the University’s commitment to contribute to Abu Dhabi's Vision 2030 targets towards creating a knowledge economy, and making Abu Dhabi a world hub of research and development. It also contributes towards driving innovation while creating knowledge and human capital. Congratulations to the faculty, researchers and student engineers who have done a commendable job by making us proud of such an achievement by a local university in the UAE."

During his visit, Sheikh Hamed met with students from ‘Al Nokhba’ programme, who are also members of National and Reserve Service, in the presence of Brigadier-General Obaid Ali Al-Mansoori, Director of the Directorate of Information and Corporate Communication, National and Reserve Service Authority, discussed research projects related to autonomous shuttles, and then took a group photo with the UAE Military trainees.

After the launch, Sheikh Hamed travelled in the driverless AV between various buildings within the SAN Campus.

Members of the Khalifa University Board of Trustees including Salem Rashed Al Nuaimi, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, Salem Butti Salem AlQubaisi, Director-General, UAE Space Agency, and Humaid Al Shammari, Deputy Group CEO and Chief Corporate and Human Capital Officer, Mubadala Investment Company, also attended at the event, in addition to Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President, Khalifa University.

Sheikh Hamed also visited the Khalifa University Centre for Autonomous Robotics Systems (KU-CARS) at SAN campus, which includes the shuttle’s operations room. He showed keen interest to learn more about the safety and security features of the AV, vehicle tracking techniques, the surveillance camera network system and other features of the Khalifa University AV. Dr. Lakmal Seneviratne, Director, KUCARS, and Dr. Jorge Manuel Miranda Dias, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, offered Sheikh Hamed an overview of the entire project.

Later, Sheikh Hamed visited the Autonomous Vehicles Lab to know more about future plans including a project to fulfill conditions for driving the shuttle without an operator, the SAN Campus simulator, and the simulator platform to design new algorithms.

The Khalifa University AV can detect and avoid potential obstacles thanks to the onboard sensors, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) cameras, GPS, odometry and inertial measurement units. The shuttles are also equipped with onboard Wi-Fi communications to capture data generated during operation.

The shuttles run safely and effectively in a wide range of environments, including varying traffic conditions such as segregated roads, mixed traffic with bicycles and pedestrians, mixed traffic with low-speed cars, as well as changing weather conditions.

Sheikh Hamed viewed the University innovative projects showcased by faculty members – Dr. Fahad Al Maskari, Assistant Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Majed Khonji, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dr. Hamad Karki, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering. The projects on display included an unmanned robot designed by the students led by Dr. Majid Khonji, that won top spot in the Ground Robots category at the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2021.

Another unmanned drone, designed by students led by Dr. Hamad Karki, which won second place in the Drones category at the Dubai World Challenge, was also on display. Also on display was the prototype of Al Nokhba’s Agile autonomous UAV project, led by Dr. Yahya Zweiri, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering, and his team of Al Nokhba students.

Sheikh Hamed also viewed projects by EBTIC, led by Dr. Nawaf Al Moosa, EBTIC’s Acting Director, and witnessed the signing of the operating agreement totalling AED170-million. EBTIC Board members who were present included Dr Mohammed Ebrahim Al Mualla, Undersecretary of Education for Academic Affairs, Ministry of Education, Professor Dr. Tim Whitley, Managing Director, Applied Research, BT, Saleh Sayed Ahmed, Divisional Head of Digital Services and Customer Experience Division of Technology, Etisalat, and Dr. Steve Griffiths, Senior Vice-President, Research and Development, Khalifa University.

Saleh Sayed Ahmed, Vice-President, Digital Services and Customer Experience Division of Technology, Etisalat and a Senior Management Board member of EBTIC, said: "Etisalat is delighted to support EBTIC in driving advanced intelligent systems technologies’ innovation for the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) and NGN-enabled ICT applications and services. As a pioneer in 5G and a great enabler of technologies, Etisalat has always embraced the latest technologies through its strategy of 'Driving the digital future to empower societies'. We look forward to strengthening our relations with EBTIC and contributing to the next level of development by playing a greater role in the digital lives of researchers, consumers and enterprises."

Paul O’Brien, AI, Service, Security and Operations Research Director, Applied Research, BT, said: "We’re delighted to continue BT’s involvement in EBTIC for its third phase of operations. EBTIC has proved to be a very successful joint initiative with our close partners, Etisalat and Khalifa University. BT has a long-standing commitment to the Middle East and we’re pleased to continue to build the richness and diversity of BT’s research and innovation capabilities in the region. We look forward to another five years where we are sure EBTIC will continue to go from strength to strength."

Since 2009, EBTIC has consistently driven innovation in advanced intelligent systems. In June 2021, SPL Solutions, a platform developed by EBTIC, won awards in the Best Cloud Automation Tool and Best Use of Automation categories at the prestigious 2021 Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning Awards in the UK. The technology is currently undergoing commercialization as a start-up in collaboration with Khalifa Innovation Centre (KIC).