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January-March 2022

What does Saudi Arabia’s autonomous vehicle agenda mean to the rest of the world?

Saudi Arabia has set aside $500bn to invest in the economic zone of Neom, a smart city that will be built from scratch and where inhabitants will get around by using fully autonomous vehicles (AVs). While it is certainly a significant project, the systems being developed for the Neom megacity are still in the design phase, with many details either not yet decided or not communicated to the public. Leading the effort to develop the AVs in Neom is Syrian-born Nahid Sidki, who spent more than 30 years honing his skills in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the US. Sidki recently left his position as executive director for the robotics centre at Stanford Research Institute to apply his knowledge to projects in the Middle East. Now chief technology officer of the Research Products Development Company (RPDC), a Riyadh-based innovation centre, Sidki has assembled an international team for the Neom autonomous vehicle project. The transportation system will function without any human input at all – but only if the vehicles ...

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