JD.com, China’s second largest e-commerce platform, announced in Beijing on Thursday that its “driverless distribution vehicle” would start road tests. The company claimed that it is the first of its kind in China.
“Logistics in Chinese cities have highly relied on manpower so far. The driverless vehicle will greatly improve delivery efficiency with its flexibility and convenience,” said Xiao Jun, head of the smart logistics division of JD.com
The robot has six lockers, each robot is 1 meter long, 0.8 meters wide, and 0.6 meters high. It can drive autonomously according to a given route.
The retailer giant also said that the driverless distribution vehicle is scheduled to initiate pilot operation in October, and is expected to be enter large-scale commercial use next year.
JD’s net revenues were RMB 65.2 billion (USD 9.8 billion) for Q2 2016, representing a 42% YoY growth; Its net loss was RMB 132 million (USD 20 million), a decrease of 74% from the second quarter of 2015, according to its Q2 2016 results.
Efficient logistics has been JD.com’s most potent weapon. Consumers buying from JD.com get products delivered to them from much faster than when buying from its rival Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce platform. JD.com promises its users that goods purchased online before 11 a.m. will be delivered to customers before 4 p.m. on the same day, and goods purchased before 4 p.m. would arrive at customer’s address before 11 a.m the next day.
Interestingly, Alibaba-backed logistics company Cainiao announced its delivery robot on the same day.
The Cainiao robot, about one meter high and with a capacity of 10-20 parcels, is still undergoing testing inside Alibaba headquarters in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. The e-commerce behemoth has not disclosed the mass production plan for its delivery robots.
The question is, will the robot race between China’s first and second largest e-commerce platforms mean these robots will be put to use sooner?
(Top photo from pixabay.com)