Sustainability spurs a new future for smart mobility in UAE

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Updated 26 June 2022

Sustainability spurs a new future for smart mobility in UAE

Sustainability spurs a new future for smart mobility in UAE
  • The move has spurred sustainable cities into high gear with smart transportation such as autonomous shuttles

DUBAI: Six years after the Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority laid the roadmap for driverless vehicles by 2030, smart mobility has swept the landscape with intelligent concepts that are changing the region’s social infrastructure. 

The move has already spurred sustainable cities into high gear with smart transportation such as autonomous shuttles, e-bikes and e-buggies set to own the roads. 

An excellent example of a fully-integrated residential project is Sharjah Sustainable City. This eco-friendly concept is powering a net-zero energy community with energy-efficient villas that promise to offer sustainable living at no extra cost.

Developed by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority in partnership with Diamond Developers, the sustainable city will host the best green technology, including solar-powered smart homes, bio-domes for vertical farming, electric vehicle chargers, driverless shuttles and a biogas plant.

“The UAE is the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to commit to net-zero by 2050; all growth and development must align with that commitment, which means we have to do our bit,” Karim El-Jisr, chief sustainability officer, SSC, told Arab News. 




Karim El-Jisr

Sustainability pyramid

Comparing smart mobility to a pyramid, El-Jisr explained that the bottom constituted soft mobility, including people who walked or cycled to commute. The SSC master plan covered this aspect by building roads with no zebra crossings. 

“There would be no need to cross zebra lines or intersect with vehicles to reach any of the 1,250 villas in SSC. The residents and visitors could connect to those villas on foot,” said El-Jisr.

The next pyramid level involved shared mobility, using electric buggies and concierge services.

“The concierge team would manage buggies, which residents can book over their smartphones. The concierge team can increase the numbers based on future demand,” he added. 

The topmost level of the pyramid featured electric vehicles, and SSC will encourage people to switch from gasoline to electric cars.

“We will provide charging stations throughout the development. It will be the highest density of charging points in any project across the GCC,” said El-Jisr, adding that there will be 80 charging points in the community.

The sustainable city is also studying the autonomous shuttle trials in Dubai to determine if they should implement them.

Advent of faceless mobility

The story doesn’t end there. Last December, UAE-based sustainable transport company ION broke all barriers to mobility by launching the UAE’s first autonomous shuttle service along the Ajman Corniche.

The autonomous shuttle uses a public road between the Fairmont Hotel and the Coral Beach Hotel on the Ajman Corniche. ION is a joint venture between Bee’ah, the Middle East’s sustainability pioneer, and Sharjah-based Crescent Enterprises.

“In addition to deep learning technologies, the autonomous shuttle is equipped with 3D vision, automatic routing, navigation, IoT sensors for optimal safety, and motion sensors to open and close doors,” Nasir Al-Shamsi, director of sustainable mobility at Bee’ah, told Arab News. 




Nasir Al-Shamsi

By receiving data from traffic lights and traffic signals, the autonomous shuttle detects the surroundings of the shuttle and sends an alert whenever it approaches a pedestrian crossing. 

Along with wheelchair accessibility, the shuttle has an emission-free design and can seat 15 passengers simultaneously.

Al-Shamsi said that about half of Dubai’s population does not own vehicles and relies heavily on public transportation, adding that autonomous vehicles are safer than human-driven ones since a driver could make a mistake that causes an accident.

“More than 90 percent of accidents in the UAE are caused by human error. If you translate that 90 percent, these are equivalent to billions of UAE dirhams. This loss by itself weakens the economy,” he said.

According to Al-Shamsi, the company is also toying with the idea of launching drone delivery solutions beyond the visual line of sight, which could lead to goods delivered between buildings. 

The company is currently testing the system and will soon launch the first trial in cooperation with the Sharjah Civil Aviation Department.

Bee’ah is looking into ways to incorporate micro-mobility through electric bikes and scooters.

Biking on zero-carbon footprint

Dubai-based Careem Bike is poised to become the world’s largest pedal-assisted docked bike-share scheme by deploying 175 stations next month.

The company initially introduced 800 e-bikes and 80 stations across the city under a 15-year partnership with Dubai’s Road and Transportation Authority.

“We just exceeded 2 million trips and about 10 million kilometers in the distance traveled, displacing about 450 cars in the city in terms of CO2 emissions,” Sami Amin, senior director of operations, Careem Bike, told Arab News, while adding that the company plans to expand to 3,500 bikes and 350 stations. 




Sami Amin

Like most cities in this region, Dubai is car-centric, and the roads are not designed for cyclists. However, RTA is keen on transforming the area into the most cycle-friendly city in the world. 

With a clear focus on sustainable mobility, the company is exploring autonomous vehicles, delivery robots, and other electrified vehicles. “Driving sustainability is our core strategy,” said Amin.

Through sustainable cities, reducing cars, and implementing micro-mobility, communities will be more livable by decreasing the cost of transportation, making them accessible, and reducing the carbon footprint and general pollution. Smart mobility is all about communities.


Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
  • The two countries will bolster ties further with the signing of 12 new deals this week

RIYADH: The mutual trade between Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan reached $95 million in the first half of 2022, a substantial increase considering that bilateral trade barely exceeded $17 million last year.

According to a joint news statement, the value is expected to grow rapidly by the end of 2022. The numbers assume significance in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In fact, the number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years. Of the 38, 19 are sole proprietors, and the rest are joint ventures.

The two nations will bolster the ties further by signing 12 new agreements on Wednesday and Thursday when Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visits the Kingdom.

According to an Uzbek state agency, high-level talks will take place in Jeddah, where the two nations will discuss opportunities to enhance multilateral cooperation further.

The discussion will focus on the green economy, technology and digitalization, innovations, small business and entrepreneurship. 

Following the meeting, new agreements are expected to be signed in the energy, telecommunications, agriculture, chemical and petrochemical industries, besides encouraging ties in culture, sports and education.

The Kingdom has become one of the largest foreign investors in energy infrastructure and one of Uzbekistan’s most significant developers of green energy projects.

ACWA Power’s Uzbek interests

Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

ACWA Power will develop and operate a wind energy project with a production capacity of 1,500 MW in the Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan.

When commissioned, the plant will become the largest of its kind in Central Asia and one of the largest wind power plants in the world. 

FASTFACTS

• The number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years.

• Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

• The Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

ACWA Power also signed an agreement to establish the 100MW Nokus wind farm project, the first renewable energy project to be implemented in partnership with Uzbekistan’s public and private sectors.

The power generating company also won a $108 million wind contract after proposing a tariff of 2.56 cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest in Uzbekistan.

Additionally, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with ACWA Power to establish a combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Shirin, located in Syrdarya, Uzbekistan. The deal amounts to $1.2 billion.

According to the statement, these projects will contribute to achieving Uzbekistan’s national goal of raising the total renewable energy generation capacity to 30 percent by 2030.

Saudi Fund for Development

Moreover, the Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

The fund also contributed to 20 projects in the republic, including building pumping stations and other projects involving sewage, chemicals, mining, building materials, water and agriculture.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan, the Saudi and Uzbek delegations have discussed issues of cooperation in agriculture, including the prospects for enhancing mutual trade in agricultural products.

Both parties will likely sign memorandums of cooperation in agriculture, veterinary medicine and livestock development at the meeting.

They also agreed to deepen cooperation in the agricultural sector to enhance trade in farming, livestock and other products between the countries.

After signing the memoranda, action plans will be prepared, including specific measures and areas for developing cooperation and joint projects.

The Saudi side invited the Uzbekistan delegation to attend its most prominent exhibition of the agro-industrial complex, which will be held at the end of October in Riyadh.


American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal
Updated 16 August 2022

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

CHICAGO: American Airlines Group Inc. on Tuesday agreed to buy up to 20 jets from aircraft maker Boom Supersonic, becoming the second major US airline to bet on ultra-fast passenger travel in the last two years.

The deal brings Boom’s order book to 130 airplanes, including options, valued at about $26 billion, Boom Chief Executive Blake Scholl said in an interview.

The return of interest in supersonic jets comes nearly two decades after Concorde, flown by Air France and British Airways, was retired following a deadly crash and high costs of fuel and maintenance.

Last year, United Airlines Holdings Inc agreed to buy 15 Boom Overture aircraft provided they meet certain safety, operating and sustainability requirements. A similar condition was part of the American Airlines agreement as well.

American also has an option to purchase 40 more of the jets, each of which can carry 65 to 80 passengers, the companies said.

The four-engine Overture jet can fly from Miami to London in just under five hours, cutting the nearly nine-hour flight time between the cities by about half.

American Airlines spokesperson Matt Miller said it was too early to discuss ticket prices, given the aircraft isn't expected to carry its first passengers until 2029.

Supersonic jets have come under criticism from environmentalists for burning more fuel per passenger than comparable subsonic planes.

The Overture jet, being designed to run fully on sustainable aviation fuel or a blend, will be rolled out of Boom’s Greensboro, North Carolina factory in 2025, followed by test flights in 2026.

Third Bridge senior analyst Christopher Raite sounded a word of caution on Boom’s delivery target, saying the delay in conducting test flights for Boom’s other jet, the XB-1, signaled that delivery of the Overture will be delayed.


87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022
Updated 16 August 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

RIYADH: The number of families benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s Sakani housing options and financing solutions has reached 87,467 since the beginning of the year until the end of July. 

Some 104,492 families also received possession of their first homes during that period, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The program seeks to raise the proportion of housing ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase.

Earlier this year, Sakani program announced that it aims to enable 180,000 new families to benefit from the program’s housing options and solutions during 2022. 


Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns
Updated 16 August 2022

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell over 1 percent on Tuesday in volatile trading as economic data spurred concerns about a potential global recession, while the market awaited clarity on talks to revive a deal that could allow more Iranian oil exports.

Brent crude futures fell $1.41, or 1.5 percent, to $93.69 a barrel, after hitting a session high of $95.95. West Texas Intermediate crude decreased $1.33, or 1.5 percent, to $88.08 a barrel, after rising to $90.65.

The contracts fell about 3 percent in their previous sessions.

The EU is assessing Iran’s response to what the bloc has called its “final” proposal to save a 2015 nuclear deal, and consulting with the US, an EU spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Iran responded to the proposal late on Monday but neither Tehran nor the EU provided any details on the content of the reply.

“It is still unclear what Iran has told the EU last night, so some tricky items might impact the outcome of the nuclear deal,” UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said.

Weak economic indicators weighed on prices.

US homebuilding fell to the lowest level in nearly 1-1/2 years in July, weighed down by higher mortgage rates and prices for construction materials, suggesting the housing market could contract further in the third quarter.

“Oil traders reacted because of concerns about an economic slowdown and housing uses energy,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures group. “That caught us by surprise.”

China’s central bank cut lending rates to try to revive demand as the nation’s economy slowed unexpectedly in July after Beijing’s zero-COVID policy and a property crisis slowed factory and retail activity.

State media quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying that China will reasonably step up macro policy support for the economy.

Barclays lowered its Brent price forecasts by $8 per barrel for this year and next, as it expects a large surplus of crude oil over the near-term due to “resilient” Russian supplies.


Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain
Updated 51 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday authorized the minister of transport and logistic services to discuss with Bahrain two draft agreements to boost cooperation in the fields of road safety and maintenance. 

During the meeting, the council of ministers also authorized the chairman of Education and Training Evaluation Commission to discuss with the UAE a draft initial agreement to cooperate in the development of assessment, measurement and accreditation tools.

The ministers also approved two agreements in the fields of employment and domestic workers with Burundi, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The Cabinet has also authorized the health minister to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding with the Uzbek side for cooperation in the field. 

It also approved the rules governing the competency and contractor program.