Dubai: Students develop solar-powered autonomous car prototype for sustainable urban transportation

The innovative vehicle is the culmination of a year’s worth of teamwork across a multi-disciplinary group of 22 senior students


Nandini Sircar

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 27 Jul 2023, 3:13 PM

Last updated: Tue 1 Aug 2023, 3:00 PM

A group of undergraduate engineering students from a university in Dubai is contributing to the advancement of urban transportation by developing a prototype of an autonomous car that runs solely on solar energy.

The innovative vehicle is the culmination of a year’s worth of teamwork across a multi-disciplinary group of 22 senior students from Canadian University Dubai's (CUD) School of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology.

Students who developed the vehicle as part of their graduation programme are simultaneously exploring potential external partnerships to utilise it as a transportation medium, connecting the university's two City Walk buildings.

This comes at a time when the UAE recently approved the first national licence of its kind for self-driving vehicles to run on the country’s roads.

In early July, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, posted on Twitter (now known as X) that WeRide has been granted the preliminary licence.

Five technical groups join hands for project

The project involved cooperation between five distinct technical groups, each responsible for a particular aspect of the manufacturing process.

Speaking about the collaborative effort, Feras Ahmed Usmani, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Mechatronics, student said: “The first team engineered the steering and braking of the car, while a second team led the bodyshell design, material selection, and the suspension system development. The third team was tasked with the central processing design, managing the vehicle’s controls, as well as handling the inputs received from the camera and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system sensors, which serve as the car’s core intelligence.”

Another team developed the vehicle’s smart navigation, configuring the LIDAR and camera system to ensure precise obstacle detection and avoidance.

“The fifth team was responsible for the supply of power to all the car’s onboard electronic devices, utilising the photovoltaic panel installed on the vehicle’s roof. This was achieved through a uniquely designed power conditioner that charges the traction battery, delivering a 60-volt power supply to the car,” he added.

They said a significant obstacle faced was integrating all the systems into a unified car that fulfilled the project requirements.

“The greatest challenge was merging license all the systems into one cohesive car that met our project requirements. For example, we had to ensure the integration of the steering system and enable the Central Processing Unit to receive commands from the control centres. The guidance from our Professors, effective student teamwork, and strong engineering skills were fundamental to the success of all the car’s developments,” Usmani said.

How did collaboration improve product functionality?

Students highlight being part of different teams helped enhance the product’s functionality.

Fellow Mechatronics major, Malak Osama, added: “Working within such a diverse team has clearly demonstrated to me how we are interdependent upon one another to optimize the functionality of a product. My programming and engineering skills have become enhanced over the duration of the project through research, data configuration, working on different software and redefining various systems.”

Among the faculty supervising the project was Dr Salih Rashid Majeed, Assistant Professor in CUD’s School of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology, who said:

“The students have become equipped with valuable interpersonal skills and technical expertise. The practical application of their theoretical knowledge to this real-world project is remarkable and life-changing for their futures. The project facilitated a deeper understanding of the true essence of engineering and the significance of teamwork among the students.”

He added: “While the car is currently on display at the university and undergoing some final adjustments, we are also exploring external collaborations to utilize the vehicle as a means of transportation between CUD’s two City Walk buildings.”


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