The larger the settlement, the more complex its infrastructure becomes. The scale of the NEOM project, equal to the size of 33 New York cities, does not fit well with the understanding of the Europeans. Indeed, even the largest and busiest capitals pale in comparison with it.
In megalopolises, intricate transport interchanges are combined with original neighborhoods and the metro helps to connect the outskirts, saving residents time. Even modern vehicles do not provide complete freedom from traffic jams and congestion.
In this regard, the ideas of the creators of the NEOM project are ambitious, with plans to decongest the transport corridors of the metropolis using flying vehicles, as well as automated ground vehicles that will be controlled to a greater extent by artificial intelligence. It is about these ambitious plans which we will now explore.
The NEOM area is much larger than any known metropolis with 26,500 square kilometers. Its coastal area alone, located along the Red Sea, is equal to a length of 460 km. For comparison, the area of Beijing is 16,410.5 km2 and the Australian coast of Brisbane is 15,826 km2.
These are some of the largest megacities on the planet. European cities and even their capital cities pale in comparison. For example, London covers an area of 1,572 km2. Hence, the world has never seen such a Neomean scale of urban planning. A scale such as this presupposes a well-developed infrastructure and transport system.
The main gateway of air travel of the project will be NEOM BAY airport, which is located in the area of the same name. It has already begun receiving the first flights from Riyadh and Jeddah on a weekly basis. It is already equipped with state-of-the-art communications, including a 5G wireless network.
In addition to NEOM BAY, it is planned to build three more airports, which will allow Neomeans to get as quickly as possible in any direction of interest. But this is all just the beginning. It is much more interesting to find out what the infrastructure of the metropolis itself has in store.
In the article NEOM Management and Administration, we have already mentioned modern urban management systems, which will certainly be adopted by the organizers of the project. Smart city management and planning refers to the idea of the so-called “Smart City”, in which all services, systems and departments are aimed at the most careful use of natural and human resources.
Cognitive cities are considered even more advanced, in which the achievements of the IT industry are used to the full extent. It is in this direction that NEOM is expected to develop, making the move from that of a “smart” city to a real cognitive metropolis.
This project will attempt to test 5G technologies that will allow it to become a leader in innovative areas such as robotics, neural networks, augmented reality, smart homes, and autonomous vehicles. This approach will open enormous potential for the NEOM project as a major economic engine for a number of industrial sectors in Saudi Arabia.
A cognitive city can only be created as a result of a deep understanding of the needs of its inhabitants on a global scale, requiring the introduction of high-speed 5G Internet. This technology is being actively tested all over the world as the cutting edge of modern civilization. A cognitive city can easily cope with traffic collapse, climate change, or lack of clean water, which is especially important for the desert regions of Saudi Arabia.
“We are delighted to form a partnership with a leading national digital provider to support our ambition and goal of accelerating human progress and creating unprecedented resilience in a cognitive city. The infrastructure of the NEOM metropolitan area will use artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-machine synthesis to provide more accurate forecasting and faster decision-making across all sectors of the urban economy. Acquiring and deploying a future-proof wireless network is a critical milestone in realizing our goal of driving innovation in the future digital economy.”NEOM CEO NADHMI AL-NASR
The advantage of a cognitive city is that information exchange is not merely one-way. All residents, civil society organizations, elected officials and other interested parties or stakeholders participate in decision-making.
Collecting the necessary data is not limited to the use of electronic sensors but also to other means of collecting data as well, allowing the opportunity for a more intelligent allocation of limited resources. All components of the urban ecosystem are closely related to each other, forming an urban world based on synergy.
According to the head of the water sector, Gavin Van Tonder, the NEOM project will be the first metropolitan area in the world to implement an integrated smart infrastructure, including smart air pressure, smart temperature, and smart water.
He also noted that although NEOM does not have access to fresh water, there are plans to create a fully automated water supply network. The project will help install fountains throughout the region, build recreational dams, irrigate gardens in the surrounding area, and create canals. One of the main areas of the project includes research and development that will allow the harvested water to be used for irrigation of saline-resistant crops and green spaces around the NEOM metropolis.
Safe and reliable air connections between NEOM and the rest of the world will ensure comfortable travel. Biometric data processing will be implemented at the airport, and modern passenger traffic control systems will be installed. NEOM will become the global leader in flight safety and environmental compliance in the management of manned and unmanned aircraft.
On land, the plans of the organizers of NEOM are no less ambitious. High-speed transit innovations will be introduced through automatization processes and digital infrastructure development. At the same time, priority in the urban environment will be given to walking, cycling and personal electric vehicles that do not have a negative impact on nature.
This policy will be implemented on an urban scale, and for long-distance travels, Neomeans will have access to high-speed main lines of public transport, which will connect all areas of the metropolis. Such a solution will aid in the development of the tourism business, because the natural potential of the territory allows it to attract huge flows of tourists. More on this can be found in the article NEOM – Natural potential and wealth.
In addition to everyday transportation and travel infrastructure, innovative approaches in the field of logistics are also being developed, including the world’s first autonomous supply chain, which will ensure the uninterrupted movement of goods for residents and businesses of the metropolis.
The Neomean society will actively introduce artificial intelligence, which will make it an outstanding global hub for world trade and financial flows. Ubiquitous robotization will help automate the majority of the processes, freeing Neomeans from routine and unpleasant labor.
This will make it possible to fully realize the intellectual potential of the residents, directing it to the development and implementation of innovations in all spheres of life. This topic is covered in more detail in our article NEOM – The world of robots.
One of the main wonders that the organizers of the project promise to present to the Neomean society are flying cars. Already many firms in different countries are engaged in the development of personal air transport. The presentation of one of these developments was planned to be held at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, but due to the pandemic, this much-anticipated event had to be postponed.
One of the pioneers of the industry is UBER ELEVATE, which is determined to design the world’s first air taxi. The project engineer Michael Moore was involved in the development of transport at NASA, capable of performing vertical take-off and landing. Plans are underway to create aircraft that resemble miniature helicopters in terms of their operation.
However, UBER ELEVATE is not the only one of its kind working towards this goal. Companies such as HYUNDAI, TOYOTA, GEELY, and other well-known automakers have similarly ambitious plans. For example, TOYOTA Corporation has invested close to $400 million in the development of flying vehicles, realizing all the prospects and importance of this technology.
In addition, the Japanese are seriously engaged in the design and development of unmanned vehicles that can serve as urban transport. The first Toyota e-Palette shuttles were also planned to be introduced at the Summer Olympics.
All of this is evidence of the fact that by 2025 the NEOM project will be able to take advantage of the scientific and technical potential that is already being made available to our civilization. The proposed flying taxis and self-driving cars should already be in use in many developed countries by then.
Saudi Arabia, with its enormous economic potential, will confidently enter the market in order to take a lead in this field. The introduction of cognitive city technologies will help reduce traffic congestion by regulating the movement of all types of ground and aircraft traffic.
In addition to all of this, the traditional means of transportation in the metropolis, for example, the modern metro, will be introduced.
Such plans have turned the NEOM project into a promising direction for the development of the tourism business and attracting foreign investment (more information can be found in the post NEOM – a magnet for investors).
Infrastructure solutions and transport innovations will play a significant role in this, capturing the eyes of enthusiastic and experienced entrepreneurs.
Transport connections and interchanges, as well as competent city design, are necessary for the construction of modern megacities. The NEOM project will certainly take into account all the advanced trends in this area.
Perhaps the Saudis will even surpass the current leaders of urban planning to create the first true cognitive metropolis that the whole world can only dream of.