Top Chinese autonomous driving technology startup Pony.ai announced it had secured a US$100m investment from Saudi Arabia’s special economic zone developer NEOM Investment Fund (NIF).
Pony.ai currently operates fully driverless vehicles in Beijing and Guangzhou and also has licences to operate those in two other Chinese tier-1 cities.
The two companies have agreed to establish a joint venture to develop smart vehicle infrastructure, produce autonomous vehicles and offer autonomous driving services initially in the NEOM economic zone and later in other areas of the country, the Middle East and North Africa.
NIF sees its investment in Pony.ai as an essential part of its ambitious plans to build smart, zero emission, autonomous multi modal transport systems across the Middle East.
Executive director of land mobility, Terry Wong, said in a statement: “With this investment, we are moving ever closer towards a new future for commuters and travellers, one that is safer, more convenient and more sustainable.”
Through the JV, the two companies plan to build an autonomous vehicle factory and R&D facility for the region in the NEOM special economic zone.
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NIF said the economic zone itself would become a “living lab” for advancing autonomous mobility.
Pony.ai co-founder and CEO James Peng said: “This regional expansion is a major milestone in [our] aspirations and vision of ‘autonomous mobility everywhere’. It will advance the development of the global autonomous vehicle industry.”
NIF CEO Majid Mufti said “This investment aligns with our ambitious plan to provide autonomous transport across the region. Pony.ai’s autonomous driving technology is already available and we will use it in NEOM in the near future.”
Earlier this year Pony.ai agreed to produce Level 4 autonomous vehicles in China with Toyota’s local JV GAC Toyota Motor and Toyota Motor (China) Investment.