Dubai has announced the commencement of a trial for autonomous electric abras in its city waters.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has initiated the trial operation of the first self-driving electric abras, designed to accommodate eight passengers. Manufactured locally at the RTA’s Al Garhoud Marine Maintenance Centre, these abras feature a design that preserves the heritage identity of traditional abras.
The inaugural journey of the autonomous electric abra took place from Al Jaddaf Station to the Festival City Station on Dubai Creek. Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors at RTA, emphasised that the operation of the Autonomous Electric Abra aligns with the Dubai Strategy for Self-Driving Transport.
The strategy aims to transform 25% of Dubai’s mobility journeys into self-driving journeys by 2030. Additionally, it contributes to Dubai’s master plan to reduce carbon emissions from public transport, as mandated by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy.
The Autonomous Electric Abra boasts several noteworthy features, including zero carbon emissions, a 30% reduction in operating and maintenance costs compared to diesel-powered models, and noise elimination. Equipped with two electric motors capable of reaching a maximum speed of seven knots, it operates autonomously through an autonomous control system and four lithium batteries that provide a seven-hour operating time.
The design of the Autonomous Electric Abra incorporates new technologies, such as fiberglass in the hull, to reduce weight. During the trial run, it achieved Level 4 out of the six levels of international autonomy for ship design and operation. The trials, conducted in collaboration with Exalto Emirates and Marakeb companies, involved fully autonomous procedures, independent of the captain who acted as the operation supervisor only when necessary.
These autonomous procedures ensure adherence to the predetermined route, considering the impact of waves and wind. They also involve obstacle detection, system defect or deviation notification to the control centre, intervention in the presence of obstacles, and programming of additional scenarios to handle unexpected situations.
RTA plans to further develop automated anchoring operations and decision-making scenarios during manoeuvring and emergencies. The goal is to reach Level 5 autonomy and collaborate with the Dubai Maritime City Authority in establishing legislation for autonomous marine vehicles.
As part of its marine transport development master plan, RTA aims to enhance the capacity of traditional abra stations in Dubai Creek, including Bur Dubai, Deira Old Souk, Dubai Old Souk, and Al Sabkha.
The plan involves utilizing advanced technologies to reduce maintenance costs, extend asset lifespan, improve station and marina lighting, and provide customer facilities and investment areas. In 2022, marine transport served approximately 16 million passengers, highlighting its significance in achieving smooth mobility within the Emirate of Dubai.
Source: Construction Week Middle East