China’s e-commerce giants deploy robots to deliver orders amid coronavirus outbreak
- As customer fears about the coronavirus cast a shadow over China’s food delivery industry, several companies have announced robot delivery-related services
- Meituan put its autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads for the first time this week, while JD.com and Ele.me are sending robots into quarantine areas
“This project is to minimise the risk of potential infections caused by human contact and meet the needs of customers in this special time,” Meituan said. According to a spokeswoman, the vehicle can carry up to 100 kilograms of goods and deliver three to five orders on each trip.
Although unmanned delivery services existed before the epidemic, the outbreak has “promoted [its] popularity”, according to Yang Xu, a senior analyst at research firm Analysys.
Aside from Meituan, other platforms with existing unmanned delivery services have also announced the deployment of robots for more deliveries, especially to quarantine zones.
“JD autonomous delivery robots can help reduce human-to-human contact, making them an ideal solution for last-mile delivery solutions in Wuhan during this unique time, protecting both our customers and our employees,” Qi Kong, the head of autonomous driving at JD Logistics, wrote in a corporate blog post.
Kong told the Post that there are 10 to 20 orders from Wuhan Ninth Hospital every day, and 50 to 70 per cent of them are delivered by autonomous vehicles. “We only need to send couriers if the orders are too large to put inside of the vehicle, or there are too many orders,” he said.
Yang said that driverless delivery services were likely to flourish in the industry, as they can reduce labour costs and maximise efficiency. “But companies will face challenges because real-life situations are complicated, with interactions between people, roads and buildings to take into consideration.”
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