Saudi university launches Kingdom’s first self-driving buses

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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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The autonomous shuttles depend on electric energy via batteries and they do not require petrol to run. (Photo Supplied)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Saudi university launches Kingdom’s first self-driving buses

  • Two driverless shuttles will undergo trials
  • The shuttles are nicknamed Olli and EZ10

THUWAL: A Saudi university is helping lead the global drive toward autonomous vehicles with the launch on Wednesday of the Kingdom’s first self-driving buses.

Two driverless shuttles, nicknamed Olli and EZ10, will undergo trials on the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) campus with a view to starting regular commuter services for students and staff early next year.

The transport initiative is the result of a collaboration project between KAUST, digital vehicle manufacturer LM (Local Motors) Industries, driverless technologies firm EasyMile, and the Saudi Public Transport Co. (SAPTCO).

The shuttles were launched during a special ceremony at the Thuwal university site.

KAUST’s head of digital experience and innovation, Mohamed Abdel-Aal, told Arab News: “They’re electric, running on battery, not petrol. They are connected to the internet and communicate with a central command center, and are autonomous, self-driving.”

Olli and EZ10 use camera and censor technology to sense and feel their surroundings.

FASTFACTS

• Two driverless shuttles, Olli and EZ10, will undergo trials on KAUST campus.

• Olli and EZ10 use camera and censor technology to sense and feel their surroundings.

• Olli, is 3D printed — the body, and a lot of its components.

“One of the buses, Local Motors’ shuttle Olli, is actually 3D printed — the body, and a lot of its components. These shuttles can be produced very quickly because they do not require complex manufacturing,” said Abdel-Aal.

He added that KAUST was currently involved in discussions on how the Kingdom could benefit from advances in driverless vehicles.

Saudi bus firm SAPTCO is supporting the project as a certified operator of the autonomous shuttles, should it be required.

“For KAUST, as a university, this launch allows us to test, co-develop and co-design concepts in these shuttles, acting as a living lab. KAUST can test and examine these shuttles in a controlled environment, and whatever we learn can also scale outside to bigger cities and the region,” Abdel-Aal added.

During the launch event, Sulaiman Al-Thunayan, vice president for government affairs at KAUST, thanked governmental sectors, such as Saudi Customs and King Abdul Aziz International Airport, for helping to give the official green light for the operation of the smart shuttles at relatively short notice.

“KAUST has always ensured it leaves an imprint on the realization of Vision 2030, and this is one initiative that showcases that,” he added.

KAUST Chief Information Officer Jason Roos said the idea to find smart solutions came about six months ago, and had given birth to other initiatives and platforms whether from “drones, autonomous vehicles, to digital immersive experiences when it comes to security.”

Projects such as KAUST Smart helped to break down barriers between organizations and departments and ensured that “things happen at KAUST that cannot be done anywhere else in the world,” added Roos.

“This isn’t about a bus, this is about a new industry, autonomous vehicles and the incredible things of a technology that KAUST is going to be part of developing,” said Kevin Cullen, the university’s vice president of innovation and economic development.

The center is responsible for putting the research conducted at KAUST to use for the community, he added.

KAUST President Tony Chan said the launch had taken place at an opportune moment, as the university was celebrating its 10-year anniversary in September.

The shuttle buses will be taken on test drives and if all goes well are set to start running services for KAUST students and employees in January.

Related


Pilgrims to quarantine for 14 days after Hajj

Updated 37 min 34 sec ago

Pilgrims to quarantine for 14 days after Hajj

  • COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia continue to fall, officials say

JEDDAH: Pilgrims who took part in this year’s Hajj must continue wearing electronic tags so authorities can track their 14-day quarantine once they return home.

The bracelet is designed to monitor pilgrims’ adherence to quarantine, as well as monitoring and recording their health status through the “Tatamman” app.
Pilgrims were required to quarantine before embarking on the Hajj and wore the bracelets to ensure they were obeying the self-isolation rules as part of strict measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The country continues to experience a decline in COVID-19 cases. Recorded infections remain below the 2,000 mark for the 10th day in a row. The Kingdom reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, raising the number of those infected to 280,093 so far.
There are currently 35,091 active cases and six patients were admitted to critical care units, raising the number to 2,017. There were 32 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 2,949.
There were 1,972 new recoveries recorded, raising the total number of recoveries to 242,053.
More than 41,361 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours. The total number of PCR tests conducted to date exceeds 3.47 million.

INNUMBERS

280,093 COVID-19 cases

242,053 Recoveries

35,091 Active cases

2,949 Total deaths

3.47m PCR tests

The Ministry of Health has been carrying out daily visits to health institutions in order to assess their level of commitment to anti-coronavirus measures, such as ensuring that staff adhere to social distancing, wear masks, and adopt the health practices and crisis management mechanisms recommended by authorities to protect patients and staff.
Teams have been dispatched to supervise the compliance of health facilities’ quarantine centers across Saudi Arabia and stepped up their visits to government and private hospitals to ensure their compliance with health protocols, sample transfers and staff testing as well as ensuring that all routine surgeries are stopped.
More than 5,000 violations have been recorded and violators were referred to committees. More than 150 facilities were temporarily shut down by the ministry until the proper protocols were implemented and the violations were fixed. A number of institutions were able to resume operations after settling fines.