Robots to roam $500 billion Saudi city

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

:: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday unveiled ambitious plans for a new city state that would also straddle Jordan and Egypt in the kingdom’s northwest with up to $500bn in investments.

Called Neom, the city will be powered by solar and wind energy, and is likely to have more robots than people living there.

The business zone, spanning 26,500 square kilometers, would be a showcase for modernity, Saudi ingenuity and new technologies, the Crown Prince told a panel discussion at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh.

The forum that has attracted business and financial leaders from around the world is being sponsored by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). He said: “We will build the city from scratch, it will be drone-friendly and a center for the development of robotics. We want to create something different. Neom is a place for dreamers who want to create something new in the world, something extraordinary.”

Klaus Kleinfeld, former head of aluminum giant Alcoa has been appointed CEO of NEOM. In response to a question, he told the panel’s audience: “Saudi Arabia hasn’t only been blessed with oil and gas, but with sun and wind as well. We can use technology to accelerate economic development.

The plans are part of the Crown Prince’s vision to overhaul the country’s economy and decrease its reliance on oil. The Neom project will focus on nine different investment sectors including energy, water, biotech and robotics.

Masayoshi Son, chairman of Japan’s Softbank, disclosed the bank would be making an investment in Saudi Electric as part of a push to develop green energy in the Kingdom. Son said robots could outnumber people in Neom.

Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics told the conference: “Robots could perform a variety of functions – covering areas such as security, logistics, home deliveries and even looking after the elderly and infirm.

NEOM is the world’s first independent special zone stretching over three countries set to become a destination located in the Northwestern region of Saudi Arabia.

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