Through a partnership with Talabat, sponsorship of Vodafone Qatar and support from Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI), Airlift Systems has announced the introduction of the Middle East and North Africa’s first pilot of a self-driving delivery vehicle.
This pilot is a three-month trial of the vehicle’s capacity to show performance comparable to, or indistinct from that of a human. The trial will also obtain consumer feedback, using it to develop strategies that ensures customer satisfaction in a long-term deployment.
Ahmed Mohamedali, CEO of Airlift Systems, said, “We’re eager to work with enterprises to experiment with our self-driving technology which is cost-effective and agile to capture its value and augment their staff productivity. And we’re very glad to have formed this unique partnership with Talabat Qatar and thankful for the support from Vodafone and QF RDI office to enable this pilot. We’re also very grateful for the continued support from Qatar Science& Technology Park that was provided to Airlift since inception.”
The self-driving delivery vehicle will be equipped with a real-time low latency feedback system powered by Vodafone’s 5G network. It will be monitored remotely from in a control room at Education City. Thus allowing the operator to be able to control the vehicle in emergency cases and to stop the vehicle when needed.
During the trial, students and staff at the Education City campuses will have the opportunity to use the Talabat platform to have their orders delivered via the driverless vehicle. Francisco Miguel Sousa, Managing Director of Talabat Qatar, said, “For the coming time, the local startup Airlift team has been at the forefront of this effort — and in joining forces with Talabat, the team is now in pole position to look for solutions to deliver on that promise even faster. I’m looking forward to start working with Airlift, Vodafone and Qatar Foundation to bring to the Talabat network and its customers the latest innovation our industry has seen.”
Diego Camberos, Chief Operating Officer of Vodafone Qatar, said, “Vodafone Qatar understands the critical role of innovation in building a diversified and competitive economy, which is why we are committed to supporting innovative Qatari startups such as Airlift. Our extensive 5G network provides extremely high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, and the high levels of security Airlift’s driverless vehicles need to function efficiently. The Airlift project is a perfect example of how 5G is enabling the digital transformation of mobility and other areas that are already shaping an exciting future for us all.”
Dr. Azza Al-Tawashi, Industry, Investment and Business Development Manager at QF RDI, said, “Through the financial and technical support of Innovation Coupon Program under Qatar Foundation Research Development, and Innovation lead by Dr. Richard O’Kennedy, Airlift has demonstrated innovation in their design of a self-driving delivery autonomous vehicle with an integrated disinfecting system designed specifically to combat COVID. We are pleased to support Airlift in conducting a pilot study at Education City. Through this pilot study, the QF RDI Innovation Coupon program will provide Airlift team with the support needed to validate their autonomous vehicle technology for commercialization.”
Education City residents can place orders on Talabat and pay online through the usual process to get their deliveries. As soon as the restaurant triggers the pickup alarm, the Airlift vehicle will drive to the restaurant location and initiate a loading sequence. Once completed, the order status will be changed to ‘En-Route’ and the customer will be notified as soon as the vehicle arrives at the nearest parking location or delivery point, which can be viewed on Talabat’s map. To ensure the food is delivered securely, customers are provided QR codes, which they will use to unlock the vehicle’s compartment and retrieve the package.
With delivery trips starting from Multaqa (Education City Student Center), the vehicle will service three locations – SouthNest (Male Student Housing), NorthNest (Female Student Housing), and The Campus – Education City Guest Residence. It will drive at a maximum speed of 6 km/hr, equivalent to human walking pace, and will be strictly limited to sidewalks, using roadways only for crossings.
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