China's Neolix to trial autonomous vehicles in Saudi, UAE

FILE PHOTO: A visitor takes a picture of a Neolix self-driving vehicle at the IEEV New Energy Vehicles Exhibition in Beijing, China October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

DUBAI (Reuters) - China’s Neolix has signed a preliminary agreement with Middle East e-commerce company noon to trial autonomous vehicles in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Neolix will build driverless vehicles customised 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.

Neolix and noon signed the agreement during the state visit of Emirati crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to China.

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.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Kirsten Donovan