I made it down to Masdar Institute of Science and Technology a few weeks ago and experienced the driverless, pod-type ‘cars’ that are moving people from the car park to the institute.
The cars are minimalist with either leather or canvas interiors and overall gave me the impression of sitting in a child’s toy – complete with a strained running-out-of-batteries whirring when going round the bends.
Check out the video on the right, or here.
Masdar Institute is the only fully complete and operational set of buildings within the supposed-to-be zero-carbon Masdar City, a stone’s throw from Abu Dhabi Airport.
The initial plan was for the pods to move people all around the City but that idea has been shelved due to their cost. Building a carbon-neutral city has lots of hidden costs it seems. Zero-carbon is no longer seen as achievable and transport within the city will no longer be done solely with the pods.
So for just a few minutes, along a totally barren car park corridor, academics and guests can be transported in these Personal Rapid Transit machines. Sadly, the view was disappointing.
Unlike a roller-coaster where the experience offers broader, freer views of the landscape, the pods have no such thing going on. In retrospect, I think I expected a vista of solar panel arrays or some active eco-animation because I remember reading that the pod cars would be running over an elevated track which would provide shadow for pedestrians below? This, may also have been canned.
It was a pleasant experience. The automated pods move around propelled by magnets every so often along the track. According to my guide though, some people are afraid of sitting in the pods alone in case the mechanisms go rogue and you end up on a death/thrill ride. Wishful thinking?
Inside the institute the decor remains minimalist with smooth concrete stairwells, lots of glass and bright terracotta-coloured buildings.
Despite the fact I visited in February when it is already relatively cool and breezy, the temperature in the courtyards was perfect. The real test will be in July.
Video music by Birdie Nam Nam