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UAE smart city Masdar inspires PM Modi to say 'science is life'

PM Narendra Modi toured Masdar in Abu Dhabi, a zero carbon smart city, on Monday, taking a ride in a self-driving car that runs on batteries powered by solar energy.

tech Updated: Aug 17, 2015 17:15 IST
HT Correspondent
PM Modi in a self-driving car during his visit to Abu Dhabi's zero carbon smart city Masdar. (Photo courtesy: @PMOIndia)
PM Modi in a self-driving car during his visit to Abu Dhabi's zero carbon smart city Masdar. (Photo courtesy: @PMOIndia)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi toured Masdar in Abu Dhabi, a zero carbon smart city, on Monday, taking a ride in a self-driving car that runs on batteries powered by solar energy.

Modi discussed urban development and next generation urban spaces with UAE officials at Masdar, billed as the world's first zero-carbon, car-free city, and was briefed on its PRT or Private Rapid Transport System, according to tweets posted by his official handle.

The PRT uses self-driving cars, manufactured by 2getthere and designed by Italy’s Zagato, that use virtual software to guide them.

“Science is life,” Modi wrote in the visitor's book at Masdar City, a 5.95-sq km strip located 17 km southeast of Abu Dhabi international airport.

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The project is helmed by Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government, and has two major objectives: To turn Abu Dhabi into an international hub for renewable energy, and to support the development and commercialisation of sustainable technology.

“It has the same rationale, the same philosophy as NASA when it started: Put a man on the moon to show the strengths of the United States in that area of technology. Masdar is being developed to show Abu Dhabi's commitment to clean air and technology," Fred Moavenzadeh, president of the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology (MIST), said in an interview to Wired UK.

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Masdar was intended to be an incubator for a new generation of Emirati green start-ups. It was aimed at garnering investments in green energy and technology, which, in the long term, would earn Abu Dhabi significant revenue when its oil runs out.

Back in 2006, when construction started, the government's vision of Masdar was for it to be the world's first zero-carbon, zero-car city that would house 50,000 residents and 40,000 commuters by 2015.



But in 2010, the completion date was pushed to 2025. And as of today, the completion of Masdar City has no scheduled deadline.

Watch:

Modi tours Masdar city in driverless car, emphasises UAE's power

Masdar was designed by British architects Foster + Partners with inputs from artist Jean Marc Castera. The design was modelled on traditional Arabic cities – narrow streets, natural shading, high-density and low-rise living, and mixed-use public spaces.

The city has terracotta walls and resembles a cube from a distance. The temperature in the streets is always a pleasant 15-20 degrees Celsius, thanks to a 45-metre wind tower at the centre that sucks in air from above and pushes it through the streets. Masdar is raised above the surrounding desert to lower temperatures further.

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It is powered by a 54-acre field of 87,777 solar panels, with additional panels on the roof of every building.

There are no light switches or taps, just movement sensors that switch things on and off automatically. Masdar’s authorities have claimed the sensors cut power consumption by 51% and water usage by 55%.

Private vehicles aren't allowed inside Masdar and residents can walk, cycle, use electric vehicles or hop on to one of the 3,000 driverless PRT trains that crisscross the city.

In the aftermath of the 2009 global financial crisis, Dubai's state-owned investment company, Dubai World, ran up $59 billion in debts. As a result, it had to be bailed out by Abu Dhabi – which left very little money for investment in Masdar. As Dubai's housing market crashed in 2009, the "plug was more or less quietly pulled on Masdar City", Steve Geiger, Masdar’s co-founder and director during 2006-09, said in an interview.

“We promised the world it was going to be the first zero-carbon (city), but it's just not economically feasible. Now it's low carbon. We said it was going to be zero-waste. We said it would be car-free. We said it would be built on a nine-metre-high platform – we had to backpedal on all those ideas,” he said.