Hop into driverless electric pods to get where you need to go in AlUla

RCU launches autonomous pod vehicle service in AlUla offering seamless and sustainable transport for residents and visitors…

Visiting AlUla can seem like stepping into the future. Residents and visitors can now experience the future of sustainable, zero-emission mobility on their doorstep with the launch of a new, fully autonomous pod vehicle service.

autonomous pods AlUla

The pods look like smart cars, but instead of having to operate the wheel, these machines are autonomous. The innovative pilot scheme provides passengers with a quick and easy link to AlUla’s Old Town from the south car park.

Operating from 4pm to midnight each day, the electric-powered pod can carry up to 22 people (eight seated and 14 standing). However, capacity will be limited to eight during the pilot scheme.

Passengers can ride the pod free of charge along a circular route. Each leg takes just three minutes to cover one kilometre. It will serve the local community, business travellers to AlUla, and visitors exploring the area’s stunning natural scenery and attending the AlUla Moments festival.

The smart pods pilot scheme seamlessly connects AlUla’s people and places with a range of mobility choices, alongside e-scooters, cycle paths and electric public buses.

The future of mobility

The service is part of the Royal Commission for AlUla’s (RCU) comprehensive Journey Through Time (JTT) master plan to develop a range of fully integrated and accessible public transport options, with innovative sustainability being a key component.

Passengers seated or standing onboard can enjoy the journey while an informative instructional video is played. Utilising the latest electric vehicle battery technology, the pod can be fully charged in just 15 minutes, giving enough power to travel 50 kilometres. Plus, it is quiet and has no impact on the environment.

It will reduce the use of personal cars and solve congestion, including parking issues. At the same time, it’s safe, fun and comfortable to ride in the pod, “with four times more conditioned and filtered airflow than in a normal diesel or e-bus.”

The autonomous pod offers residents and visitors a glimpse of how RCU’s long-term development of convenient and sustainable mobility will enhance their daily lives and shape the future of transport and AlUla itself.

A creative collaboration

To realise this vision, RCU has teamed up with esteemed public transport company and technology specialists RATP Dev, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the RATP Group, to source the pod.

ZF 2Getthere has provided the first pod, and another will be made available from manufacturer EasyMile.

The pilot allows RCU and engineers from ZF 2Getthere to carefully monitor energy consumption, connectivity, and practicality before rolling out the autonomous service across specially chosen sites in AlUla.

The position, progress and performance of the pod are monitored by teams based at RCU’s Smart County Control Platform, while cameras can be added to enhance passenger safety and capacity planning.

All in the pipeline

RCU’s long-term plans include making autonomous pods available to residents and visitors to AlUla via an ‘Uber-style service, with bookings made on a smartphone application fully connected to RCU and AUla’s smart cities ambitions.

As a further innovation, RCU is co-developing digital paper touchscreens in each pod station that can call pods on demand.

As the pilot continues, the pod service will be expanded to other areas of AlUla, including Dadan, Hegra and AlJadidah, later in the year.

Amr AlMadani, the CEO of RCU, said, “The pod will give visitors and members of the community a viable and attractive alternative to using personal cars and SUVs to travel around the town and, as the service expands and grows, to surrounding areas. When fully operational, the network will deliver a convenient, quick, fun and enjoyable mode of transport linking AlUla’s main heritage and urban sites with its existing and expanding infrastructure plans.”

There will be a two-week break in the pilot scheme to allow the pod to be shipped to Dubai, where it will be maintained and displayed to industry leaders at the Transport Congress Exhibition (TCE) from February 6-8 .

Images: Provided