Saudi Arabia to invest $500 billion in fully automated city
Robots may outnumber humans in a new pioneering city billed by Saudi Arabia as "a new blueprint for sustainable life," which would be entirely powered by renewable energy and served by driverless vehicles and vertical farms.
The city, called Neom, is to span an area of 26,500 square kilometers, stretching across the borders of northwest Saudi Arabia into Jordan and Egypt, reports Dezeen. It is designed to operate as an independent economic trade zone with its own laws and is to become the first private business zone to span three countries.
Saudi Arabia will pump $500 billion from its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, into nine key investment sectors in the city: energy and water, mobility, biotech, food, technological and digital sciences, advanced manufacturing, media and entertainment.
A website dedicated to the Neom concept states the fields will attract "high-caliber human resources" and that mundane or repetitive tasks will be carried out by robots.
Plans for Neom were announced at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh. At the same conference, an intelligent humanoid robot called Sophia announced she had been granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia – the first time that an AI device has been awarded such status.
The city would be solely powered by renewable energy harvested by the sun and wind via fields of solar panels and windmills, creating a pollution-free environment. The population would be fed from the produce of vertical farms and solar-powered greenhouses.
The development of new "disruptive" infrastructure would see citizens traveling in automated vehicles, having access to free internet and online education and living in zero-carbon homes.
The plans are part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which aims to see the country become an investment hub connecting Asia, Europe and Africa.
The positioning of the city across the borders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will give it a 468-kilometer waterfront to the Red Sea to the south and west – a key trade route.
Plans to make use of the waterfront will include a marina surrounded by sports, performance and art venues, as well as shops and restaurants, and the creation of a waterpark with a wave machine for training the next generation of Olympians.
An image of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay is included in a promotional video for the project, giving a suggestion of what Neom may look like.
The first phase of construction is expected to complete by 2025, but details of what that will entail have yet to be released. By 2030, the city is expected to have received $100 billion in investment from the Public Investment Fund.
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