Pony.ai will set up a joint venture in Saudi Arabia and establish a manufacturing and R&D center, according to local media.

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Chinese autonomous driving startup Pony.ai recently received a $100 million investment from an investment fund owned by Saudi Arabia's Neom, a report in local media outlet 36kr said today.

This is Pony.ai's latest intake since it closed the first settlement of its Series D round in March 2022, and its valuation in the latest D2 round remains unchanged at $8.5 billion, according to the report.

Pony.ai and the investment fund will set up a joint venture in Saudi Arabia's Neom, where the Chinese startup will put in place a fleet of Robotaxi vehicles and set up an autonomous driving manufacturing and R&D center, the report said.

This is the latest Pony.ai partnership in the Middle East, as capital in the region ramps up its bets on Chinese startups.

On October 18, Pony.ai signed a partnership agreement with the UAE's Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to join the Abu Dhabi Smart and Autonomous Vehicles Industry (SAVI).

As a new member of the SAVI, Pony.ai is authorized to conduct autonomous driving road tests on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, the company said last week.

Founded in late 2016, Pony.ai has research and development centers in Silicon Valley, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, and robotaxi operations there.

In late 2019, Capital invested an undisclosed amount in Pony.ai. in February 2020 the company announced it had raised $400 million from Toyota.

On August 4, Pony.ai signed an agreement with Toyota and Toyota's joint venture, GAC Toyota, with plans to contribute a total of more than RMB 1 billion ($137 million) to establish a joint venture within the year.

The joint venture will launch robotaxi vehicles built on Toyota-branded all-electric vehicles produced by GAC-Toyota, equipped with the PCS (Pre-Collision Safety System) feature of Toyota's T-Pilot driver assistance system.

China's autonomous driving and new energy vehicle sectors are attracting more Middle Eastern investors.

On June 12, Chinese electric car maker Human Horizons, the owner of the HiPhi brand, signed a $5.6 billion deal with Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Investment, a statement from the Saudi Arabian state news agency said.

On July 12, Nio (NYSE: NIO) announced that it closed a $738.5 million strategic equity investment from CYVN Holdings, an investment vehicle majority-owned by the Abu Dhabi government.

The CYVN entity also acquired certain class A ordinary shares of Nio from an affiliate of Tencent for a total consideration of $350 million.

BeyonCa, the electric vehicle brand founded by former Volkswagen China executive vice president Weiming Soh, announced yesterday that it signed a memorandum of understanding for an investment and strategic partnership with Al Faisaliah Group Holding Company, a Saudi Arabian investment group, on October 20.

($1 = RMB 7.3059)

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