Delivery robots gaining popularity in logistics
China's state-owned postal service giant, China Post, has jumped on the bandwagon of introducing robots to assist with last-mile deliveries.
The company initiated the program in the city of Xiantao, central China's Hubei province.
Fully loaded with parcels, automated delivery vehicles shuttled on roads at a speed of up to 15 kph. More than 200 packages have been delivered in a 10-day commercial trial, said Sun Jianlong, general manager of the Xiantao office of China Post.
"Radars and sensors on the vehicle work under the control of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) technology for auto-piloting, which allow the courier robot to move in compliance with traffic rules, while avoiding obstacles and pedestrians," said a developer of the delivery vehicle with China Post.
A courier with 30 package slots can carry a maximum weight of 200 kg at a time and operate in all weather conditions. Customers receive a call and a text message with a pick-up code 10 minutes ahead of their parcel's arrival.
"Did it come here by itself? This is unbelievable," exclaimed a customer surnamed Zheng after receiving her package.
China's fast-developing e-commerce has injected strong vitality into the logistics industry, giving impetus to the development of new technologies for logistics, storage, transportation and delivery.
Private e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and JD.com have already put smart courier devices in service. Unmanned delivery vehicles and logistic robots are introduced to ease the shortage of manpower and increase work efficiency.
In 2018, the smart logistics market exceeded 400 billion yuan (about 58 billion U.S. dollars), and the number is expected to reach 1 trillion yuan by 2025, according to a report released by iiMedia Research, a Chinese consulting agency.
Sun said smart unmanned delivery vehicles are considered to be one of the most effective solutions for the "last mile" of logistics. China Post is monitoring the pilot service of intelligent unmanned delivery vehicles, so that it can be extended to urban areas elsewhere.
China Post signed a strategic cooperation deal with Chinese tech firm Huawei Technologies in June for partnership in developing smart logistics, cloud computing and big data, with the aim of boosting the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in China Post's financial, delivery and postal business, and accelerating China Post's ICT digital transformation.
The two sides plan to establish a laboratory for new technology application, while the Postal Savings Bank of China, affiliated with China Post, will collaborate with Huawei to build an innovation center.