China’s JD.com inks deal for automated delivery vans

JD autonomous van.jpg

The second largest e-commerce player in China has sealed the deal and will deploy the first automatic delivery vans to operate on the mainland. JD.com has confirmed the partnership deal made with Chinese automobile manufacturers Dongfeng Motor Corporation and Shanghai-based SAIC Maxus, China Daily reports.

As the e-commerce platform challenges the dominance of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in the Asia-Pacific region, JD hopes to beat them when it comes to fast and quality service. With the goal of having vans ready to transport items from JD’s distribution centers to their respective delivery stations, the triumvirate managed to develop at least 2 models of light electric vans.

The model from SAIC Maxus is equipped with sensors that can identify “obstacles 150 meters away.” It will plan the van’s route with the help of sensors alongside its radar system and positioning system. Tests confirmed that the prototype is capable of “automatic route planning, overtaking, obstacle avoidance and self-parking functions,” China Daily reported.

It was not the first time that SAIC Motors has participated in a deal to engage in development of innovative delivery vans. Back in February 2016, SAIC Motors revealed a partnership with the Chinese postal service, The Shanghai Post, to provide the latter with “new energy (electric) fleet vehicles for its routes across the city.”

Described as “wide-body light cars,” the EV80 serves as one of the earliest endeavors that SAIC Motors has entered into pertaining to alternative sources of automobile power. The Post purchased 300 of the vehicles.

JD.com sees its efforts as a way to gain a competitive advantage over Alibaba. The company expects the vehicles to improve delivery efficiency for customers in residential areas and office buildings.

JD.com has been using drone-assisted delivery in Jiangsu province while at a large shopping festival in China in June, the company used “robots and driverless cars” to speed up the delivery process.

The chief executive officer of JD Logistics, Wang Zhenhui, attributed these recent successes to his partners. “Working with partners, we will continue to enhance our smart logistics and push the bounds of our traditional logistics solutions,” he said.

Lu Zhenwang of the Wanqing Consultancy firm based in Shanghai said the new electric vehicles are “still in the phase of R&D, and we still need a long time to see its large-scale commercial application as the automatic vehicles must undergo multiple tests and obtain a license before they are introduced on roads.”