Flying cars ‘set to launch in Dubai this summer’

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EHang 184 model aerial vehicle is at World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai. (AFP)
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Mattar Al-Tayer, director general of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), speaks at the World Government Summit in Dubai.
Updated 15 February 2017
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Flying cars ‘set to launch in Dubai this summer’

DUBAI: Flying cars have long been the stuff of an imagined sci-fi future — but the technology is real and is set for launch in Dubai as early as July, it emerged on Monday. The city’s transport boss, speaking at the World Government Summit (WGS), played a video showing an autonomous aerial vehicle zooming through the skies above Dubai, saying that tests of the flying cars are ongoing. Mattar Al-Tayer, director general of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said that Dubai aims to be a leader in driverless technology by 2030. The RTA is currently testing an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) in cooperation with the Ehang Company of China, he said. “The AAV on display at the World Government Summit is not just a model but it has really flown in Dubai skies. RTA will spare no effort to launch the AAV in July 2017,” Al-Tayer said. The “flying car” resembles a giant drone, with eight propellers, and was seen in the video carrying one passenger. It can carry a weight of 100kg and cargo the size of a small suitcase. Al-Tayer said driverless vehicles, minibuses and boats are being trialled in Dubai; the second phase of the Dubai Tram will have fully driverless trams; and a study has been commissioned on the deployment of driverless express shuttle buses and taxis. “Autonomous mobility… technology has been tested in several countries including Dubai, Singapore, the United States and Britain. The Government of Dubai is leading the transition to driverless mobility in Dubai and is planning to take a leading position worldwide in autonomous mobility by 2030, whereas in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process,” Al-Tayer said. “Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, has launched the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy where 25 percent of all journeys in Dubai would be transformed into driverless journeys by 2030. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys that would be made by the driverless Dubai Metro to reach 12.2% by 2030 compared with 8.8% in 2016. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys made by autonomous buses to reach 6.4% by 2030.” Al-Tayer told the World Government Summit that Dubai has carved out a “nifty niche” for itself in the development of driverless technology. “Dubai has also started the test run of driverless minibuses, vehicles and boats, besides considering the options of deploying driverless express shuttle buses, and taxicabs from some leading companies,” he said. Al-Tayer pointed however to four key challenges facing the autonomous vehicle technology: infrastructure — including map updates, road markings and traffic lights — laws and legislation, safety and public acceptance of driverless vehicles, and technological requirements. Besides these global challenges, there are other challenges facing Dubai including harsh weather conditions and the corresponding impact on driverless transportation technological systems, and the social makeup of Dubai, which may increase people’s reluctance to embrace modern technology, Al-Tayer said. “To cope with these challenges, we have prepared Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy which, compared to other global strategies, is characterized by the leading role of the Government of Dubai in the transition to driverless mobility, while in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process. Moreover, Dubai’s vision incorporates all mass transit modes such as trains, buses, marine transit modes and taxis, as well as private vehicles, while many countries focus on a limited number of transit modes.” Al-Tayer was upbeat about the promising future of this technology. “The journey on an autonomous vehicle will soon be like boarding a lift. All of us trust the closed box that lifts us to different levels as we know it is secure, ready and tested. This is what the RTA is seeking to achieve through autonomous mobility strategy and associated initiatives,” he said.


Saudi Aramco seeks to overhaul engines and fuel amid electric vehicle hype

Updated 06 March 2019
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Saudi Aramco seeks to overhaul engines and fuel amid electric vehicle hype

  • Diesel has proven a key cause of health-threatening nitrogen oxide pollution
  • Saudi Aramco is working on gasoline compression ignition which mixes fuel and air more effectively prior to combustion

GENEVA: More efficient fuels and more sophisticated combustion engines are needed to bring down carbon dioxide pollution and to secure the long-term future of Saudi Aramco’s business, the company’s chief technology officer said on Wednesday.
“The growth of transport is greater than the growth of alternative drivetrains,” Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer at Saudi Aramco told journalists at the Geneva car show.
The spike in electric car production in Europe will not offset an overall increase in global greenhouse gas emissions as emerging economies industrialize and buy cars with petrol and diesel engines, Al-Khowaiter said.
“Improving combustion engines is key to sustaining our business in the long term,” he said.
While carmakers have rolled out advances in combustion engine technology, the availability of sophisticated fuels has not kept pace, Al-Khowaiter said.
Diesel became an industry standard more than 100 years ago and has remained popular mainly because it did not evaporate quickly, making it safer to handle during storage and refueling.
“Rudolf Diesel did not consider fuels which evaporated easily. That was an accident of history,” Al-Khowaiter said, referring to the German founder of the diesel engine technology.
But diesel has proven a key cause of health-threatening nitrogen oxide pollution, which is blamed for respiratory diseases, forcing the industry to explore ways to cut emissions.
“We can now optimize the fuel and the engine at the same time. And we can bring it to market by adding another fuel pump at the gas station, just like it is done with higher octane fuels,” Al-Khowaiter said.
“We do the patents on the fuel development to enable the engines to be efficient,” the executive said.
Saudi Aramco is working on gasoline compression ignition which mixes fuel and air more effectively prior to combustion, resulting in lower nitrogen oxide and soot emissions and a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy.
The petrochemicals giant is also helping to develop mobile carbon capture technologies which could be built into next generation passenger cars for around $1,400 per vehicle, and help to cut carbon dioxide emissions.