Smart Mobility in the Middle East

By Andrew Bevan

Agencies and governments throughout MEA are rapidly adopting smarter, safer, cleaner, and more efficient transportation systems and solutions to improve the mobility of cities or entire countries and to improve the lifestyle of the region’s population. While financing has been a challenge in recent years, we have witnessed a shift in focus to use infrastructure more smartly through the intelligent application of technology. A key pillar of a smart city is mobility, and using technology to improve the efficiency of transport modes is contributing to a smarter transportation ecosystem throughout MEA.

Authorities, master planners, and developers are embracing technologies such as intelligent transport systems, connected vehicles, smart parking, automated vehicle (AV) technology, and innovative transport modes to deliver smart mobility throughout their districts. AV, for example, is now being woven into the fabric of all types of new projects from the outset to address aspects such as last-mile connectivity from mass transit, or is being featured as a key component of a development to attract visitors.

Dubai remains highly progressive in its vision of AV and smart mobility initiatives, with its plan to transform 25 percent of its total transportation to autonomous modes by 2030. Projects such as the Bluewaters Group Rapid Transit and the introduction of autonomous aerial vehicles will serve as benchmarks for future AV projects throughout the Middle East. The biggest challenges facing the AV market globally are the restrictions imposed by out-of-date legislation, which has been based around traditional transport modes. Dubai is proving it is well positioned to overcome this obstacle by shaping legislation for the rapid adoption of AV, which would allow it to leap ahead of global competitors while still maintaining safety levels required for transportation.

Transport projects have traditionally been funded by government entities, but recently authorities across the region are exploring private financing initiatives and are looking for alternative financing options, such as public-private partnerships and special-purpose vehicle arrangements. These models reduce the required upfront capital and spread the cost over a longer period through defined repayment terms. This eases the early investment burden on governments and enables governments and agencies to partner with world-class consultants and contractors to enable efficient knowledge share, thus creating relationships that foster creativity and innovation. At Parsons, we are actively engaging several clients across the region to identify appropriate technologies, partners, and solutions and are working on innovative revenue generation schemes to support the phased delivery of transportation-related infrastructure.

To support smart mobility projects and to offer our clients the best possible solution, we establish global partnerships with other technology companies and bring relevant expertise to clients throughout the region. We recently announced our collaboration with Renovo, a mobility technology software company, to deploy and scale commercial automated mobility-on-demand systems. The Parsons-Renovo collaboration is focused on two transportation platforms deployed separately by the two companies—Parsons’ Intelligent NETworks® advanced traffic management system (ATMS), which is already in operation in more than 20 metropolitan areas around the world, providing agencies with the information and communications backbone they need to integrate new technologies into their regional transportation networks, and Renovo’s AWare™ automated mobility operating system (AMOS), which provides the data orchestration necessary to manage automation technologies, passenger services, vehicle navigation, and sensors that capture real-time data that is critical to managing urban infrastructure and coordinate public services. The combination of an established, proven, ATMS platform and the leading AMOS provides cities a safe and cost-effective means to scale up their transportation infrastructure.

We’ve also joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Industrial Liaison Program, which is dedicated to creating and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships between MIT and corporations worldwide. This program allows us to monitor MIT’s research and emerging technologies, identify MIT resources of interest to the corporation, and arrange and participate in face-to-face meetings with MIT faculty. Our participation is another example of how we are tapping into emerging areas of thought to develop innovative solutions for smart urban infrastructure.

In addition, Parsons is a member company of Hyperloop One’s Technical Advisory Board, which is designed to facilitate a close dialogue between Virgin Hyperloop One and a small number of key partners, and we’ve contributed technical resources and know-how to advance the complex engineering that is required for such an innovative transport mode.

Having extensive experience in a broad range of advanced solutions, such as through our partnership with Renovo, with MIT, and alongside Virgin Hyperloop One, enables Parsons to holistically address the region’s shift to use infrastructure more intelligently and implement technology-driven solutions.

The MEA region is making great strides in the adoption of smart mobility as part of the region’s broader smart city visions. Parsons is proud to be the leading consultant bringing innovative ideas and disruptive solutions from around the globe and tailoring them to successfully satisfy the region’s continual desire for smarter, safer, and more efficient transportation.

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