Pony.ai gets $100M, establishes JV with Saudi Arabia's Neom

Chinese autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai has scored $100 million from Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic city and development project. As part of the deal, the two plan to establish a joint venture to develop, manufacture and deploy autonomous vehicles and smart infrastructure in Neom and key markets in the Middle East North Africa region.

The deal with Pony.ai comes amid increasing cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Chinese companies, particularly in regards to technological and scientific innovation.

The tie-up comes a day after Neom also announced plans to set up a $10 billion JV with Danish freight forwarder DSV.

Neom, the $500 billion project helmed by Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, is meant to eventually house 9 million people. The aim of the development -- part of the prince's Vision 2030 reform plan -- is to diversify the economy away from oil.

"This investment aligns with the ambitious plans announced by NEOM to achieve autonomous transportation solutions for the region," said Majid Mufti, CEO of the Neom Investment Fund, in a statement. "Pony.ai’s autonomous driving technology is already available today and we are excited to be able to utilize it in NEOM in the near future.”

The agreement between Neom and Pony.ai includes the establishment of a regional R&D and manufacturing headquarters, according to the companies.

Pony.ai is currently operating fully driverless vehicles in Beijing and Guangzhou and has a license to operate driverless cars in those cities, as well as in Shanghai and Shenzhen.