With sustainable mobility plan, rich transport infrastructure and deployment of transformative technologies, Abu Dhabi is on track to become one of the most advanced smart cities in the world, a top international researcher has said.
Professor Jalel Ben Othman, an expert in intelligent transportation management, noted that Abu Dhabi has a Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP), which aims to deliver a sustainable transport system that supports the capital’s economic, social and cultural, and environmental goals.
“The effort is to harness all related components within Abu Dhabi such as vehicles, motorcycles, roads, highways and the information and communications technologies (ICT) to enhance mobility in the capital,” said Othman, a professor at Paris-Saclay University/CentraleSupelec and University Sorbonne Paris Nord, in France.
Othman is in Abu Dhabi as part of a Dh10-million Visiting International Professorships (ViPs) research funding programme by Aspire to attract the highest-calibre researchers from leading institutes to build international networks and further advance meaningful research in priority areas for the emirate. Aspire is the programme management pillar of Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC).
In line with STMP, Othman through his projects under the Aspire programme will monitor traffic, propose solutions, and exchange information in a seamless way through leveraging ICT — directly adding value to the city’s mobility landscape.
“Although the UAE is located in an arid and hot region, we believe that it is possible to use alternative methods to move around the city such as walking, riding scooters, and cycling at specific times of the day or/and at specific days of the year. Some of our efforts, during my tenure in Abu Dhabi, will aim to find sustainable mobility solutions,” said Othman, who will bring his expertise to Zayed University.
Dr Ray O. Johnson, CEO, Technology Innovation Institute and Aspire, pointed out that the ViP programme aims is to bring exceptional people, ideas, resources, and technologies together to help solve society’s most complex challenges.
“Solving global challenges requires a global mindset. That is why we are bringing some of the world’s leading researchers in their fields to Abu Dhabi to collaborate on driving solutions to these problems. In doing so, the programme will continue to boost Abu Dhabi’s standing on the global stage as a hub of research and innovation excellence.”
Future of mobility
According to the TomTom Traffic Index for 2021, Abu Dhabi tops the list of capitals with the least traffic congestion. The local transport authorities, Othman said, have been instrumental in ensuring the fluidity of transport movement within the city to prevent unnecessary traffic congestion.
“The existing transport infrastructure in the city is highly developed, thanks to the strategic construction of a vast network of highways, and wide roads that ebb and flow through the downtown area. It is still crucial for us to formulate new and improved solutions to further boost transport mobility across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.”
Othman underlined that the future of transport will be completely different from what it is today.
“New technologies such as hyperloop, unmanned aerial vehicles, robots and new modes of public transport, as well as the roll-out of the Etihad Rail network, will propel massive transformation in transport mobility in the span of a few years.”
He pointed out that the rise of city mobility apps and smart panels have greatly enhanced the way people travel through Abu Dhabi today.
“Commuters are able to use their most optimum ways to reach their desired destination, whether on foot, driving, car sharing or utilising public transportation,” Othman said and noted that 5G and future cellular networks will be the catalysts of technological revolution in transportation.
Autonomous taxis, buses and trams are currently serving residents and tourists on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. Abu Dhabi is also a ‘Bike City’.
Dr Johnson noted that the adoption of driverless technology in the UAE transportation ecosystem is among the top smart mobility solutions, not only in the country, but around the world.
“The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 prioritises ensuring safe, sustainable, efficient, reliable, and seamless mobility for the residents. To achieve that goal, smart solutions are introduced using autonomy, connected ecosystem, electrification, mobility as a service, and micro-mobility services. Since micro-mobility is one of the strategies leveraged to introduce unique mobility solutions in the UAE, e-scooters are witnessing an uptick.”
Othman said Abu Dhabi has an advanced transportation network in place and is working to further streamline transport planning to not only enhance mobility, but also ensure a positive ecological impact.
“Abu Dhabi is on track to elevate its status as one of the most advanced smart cities in the world. A huge part of the credit goes to its rich infrastructure and the recent deployment of transformative technologies such as 5G networks, unmanned aerial vehicles, the internet of things and artificial intelligence. I hope my own research collaboration with Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University will add further value in developing sustainable prototypes and new techniques.”
Othman’s research focuses on intelligent transportation management.
“In collaboration with my colleagues at Zayed University, I hope to contribute to revolutionising the transportation infrastructure in Abu Dhabi through optimised and efficient road management. We will work with technologies such as artificial intelligence, intelligent networking, connected and autonomous vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles on mobility that has a significant impact on reducing congested roads, energy, and sustainability. Through developing new algorithms for smartphones, we aim to strengthen mobility plans within the capital and reduce the amount of carbon emissions to ensure a safer, greener, and more sustainable environment.”
Othman believes it is crucial to identify the current mobility trends to develop theoretical mobility models that can be customised to meet specific use cases in different areas of the city. Another aspect that needs to be considered is the reduction of gas emissions in line with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative.
“We hope to further support this effort through increasing the use of alternative energy sources such as electricity or hydrogen. We need to bring down the number of vehicles – specifically, motorcycles on the roads for home delivery, and replace them with robots and/or unmanned aerial vehicles. Most importantly, we need to promote the education and awareness of sustainable mobility,” Othman added.
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