The possibilities of 5G have shown us the opportunities, especially when it comes to using autonomous vehicles like drones and self-driving vehicles for delivery services. Qatar is taking the first step in trialing the concept, with local startup Airlift Systems partnering with Talabat Qatar deliveries within Qatar Foundation’s Education City.

Global challenge, local solutions

The appeal of this project lies with its approach, as the whole effort has been driven locally. Airlift Systems, a startup incubated at the Qatar Science and Technology Park, is the one who has created this self-driving vehicle.

Not pleasing to the eye, but focus has been on function over aesthetics. This makes it their first pilot and practical use of a self-driving vehicle in the MENA region.

Food deliveries have risen significantly, and it’s a nobrainer that Talabat Qatar stepped in to join the pilot.

Vodafone Qatar’s GigaNet 5G network is powering the entire system, due to the real-time low latency feedback system incorporated into Airlift System’s vehicle. Everything is monitored remotely in a control room located onsite at Education City. This allows the operator to access or control the vehicle in emergency situations and to stop the vehicle when needed.

Last but not the least, Qatar Foundation’s Research, Development, and Innovation office have sponsored this pilot.

Airlift System's self-driving vehicle at Education City in Qatar
Airlift Systems’ self-driving vehicle on the pedestrian walkways of Education City (image credit: QF)

Order, Scan, and Collect

Students, staff and residents of Education City will only be required to place their orders via Talabat. Payment has to be done online for their deliveries. Hence, no cash on delivery option is available as it defeats the purpose of this system.

Ensuring the safety of the items being delivered, every order will have a QR code to unlock the vehicle’s compartment to collect their order. You will need to commute to the nearest parking location for your delivery location to collect your order.

The vehicle will have an operating speed of 6 km/hr (equivalent to an average human’s walking pace). The vehicle will be strictly limited to sidewalks for its operations, using roadways only for crossings.

Delivery trips by the self-driving vehicle cover the following areas in Education City, starting from the Education City Student Center:

  • SouthNest (Male Student Housing)
  • NorthNest (Female Student Housing),
  • and The Campus – Education City Guest Residence.

The whole pilot is expected to last for three months, incorporating feedback from users to see where improvements can be made and further testing needs to be done. It’ll be good to see how good does it match up to an actual human fulfilling the delivery.

Maybe by the end of 2021, we may see limited public availability of self-driving delivery vehicles within certain areas in Doha.


Image credits: QF on Twitter

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