China’s Neolix has signed a preliminary agreement with Middle East e-commerce company noon to trial driverless vehicles in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Neolix will build driverless vehicles customized to the region’s weather conditions, where temperatures can soar above 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, noon said in a statement on Tuesday.
Noon, a joint venture between Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund and Dubai billionaire Mohamed Alabbar, will focus on ‘last mile delivery’ of the vehicles in select areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the next few weeks, the company added.
It did not give trial dates for Saudi Arabia.
Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties and founder of Noon, spoke to Al Arabiya about the deal with Neolix.
“These driverless buses roam around the area. You can stop them and use your phone to buy products. They work similarly to smart fridges, but these are moving buses that offer Noon’s most important products,” Alabbar said on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Beijing.
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing signed an agreement on Monday with Symphony Investment, which is funded by Middle Eastern companies including Dubai’s Emaar Properties, to open a joint venture headquarters in Abu Dhabi that will “promote sharing economy and internet consumer services in the region.”
Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is considering joining the venture, a Didi statement said, without giving further details.
Uber and Dubai-headquartered Careem, which Uber is buying, are the largest ride-hailing operators in the Middle East.
“The news of further investment into our region’s sharing economy shows increased investor confidence and recognition of the enormous opportunity that lies with this young, tech-savvy, aspiring population,” Careem Chief Executive Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters in an email.
For his part, Alabbar told Al Arabiya that competition was good for the market.
“Uber has 14 million daily trips, Didi has 28 million daily trips. But unfortunately, because they don’t speak English and don’t have an American marketing strategy … But I think that Middle Eastern and Arab countries need the competition, so they can partner with them in transport vehicles and food delivery in the Arab World,” Alabbar said.