Cairo: The global coronavirus pandemic may have hobbled Saudi Arabia’s plans for investing in future transportation, but it has not derailed them. Keen on diversifying its oil-reliant economy, the kingdom is set to forge ahead with those plans once the virus scourge is over, according to the regional business news portal AMEinfo.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia took a series of steps for investing in cutting-the edge transport technologies, including flying taxis .For example, Jameel Investment Management Company, the investment arm of the Saudi group Abdul Latif Jameel, unveiled in February its participation in funding the California-based company developing and commercialising piloted all-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
Saudi Arabia is also joining other member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in building a unified railway system at an estimated cost of over 240 billion dollars. The envisaged rail link will stretch for 2,117 kilometres with its trains to speed at 220 km per hour, according to the report quoted by Saudi newspaper Sabq.
The Saudis also eye the Hyperloop high-speed technology. The kingdom seeks to develop its own Hyperloop system in collaboration with Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), a US transportation technology company. According to VHO, the Hyperloop could reduce the journey time between the Saudi capital Riyadh and the port city of Jeddah to 76 minutes, compared to over 10 hours at present.
The concept of autonomous vehicles is on the Saudi radar, too.
Around 61 per cent of the kingdom’s residents are enthusiastic for driverless cars, according to a recent study conducted by YouGov, a UK-based research firm. The study found that 49 per cent of the respondents believe that driverless cars will help curb traffic snarl-ups. In the same vein, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology last year unveiled self-driving shuttles on its campus.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia launched Saudi 2030 Vision, an ambitious scheme designed to open up economy and wean it from dependence on oil.