Neolix, a China based auto-driving startup company has launched production of its self-driving delivery vehicles. Neolix claims they are the first company who will mass produce these type delivery vehicles. They have already contracted to both JD.Com Incorporated and Huawei Technologies Company. Neolix expects to deliver a thousand of their vehicles, which look like small mini-vans, within a year.
Chinese analysts predict in ten year, there will be 1 billion deliveries a day in China. The commercialization of this self-driving technology, will then provide lessons for auto-driving passenger vehicles.
Neolix is testing more than a hundred of the vehicles in enclosed areas such as Chinese campuses. The vehicles are priced similar to a passenger car; a van costs about $30,000. Neolix, who’s developer was previously an inventor of smart tools for the logistics industry, said delivery of low-level goods is just the beginning. They envision fleets of “robo-vans” providing everything from 24/7 mobile vending to help with running errands. Neolix’ confidence stems from the current Chinese e-commerce boom that has created huge e-commerce companies like the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which is valued at $400 billion.
There is one problematic challenge: either a human has to be present to accept a package, or the robo-vehicle has to leave the package at a prearranged accessible location, such as a ground-floor locker. The Ford Motor Company has offered one solution, to utilize a small robot that walks on two legs, and brings the goods from the robo-vehicle to the customer’s doorstep.
Transportation experts feel that unmanned delivery vehicles will face less regulations than vehicles carrying passengers. Neolix vans are operating in the new Xiongan economic zone about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Beijing, as well as in limited areas of the capital and the City of Changzhou. Once robo-delivery vans gain acceptance, theory holds that robo-taxis could be next.
Wapack Labs has reported extensively on the current Chinese government and all companies in China. Most companies have direct links with the government, which raises concerns with espionage matters. The US ban on Huawei products is a clear example of these fears.
US based company Nuro, is close behind with similar concepts and have raised almost a billion dollars in research money. As a test, Nuro will begin delivering groceries in various Arizona cities. They are working in conjunction with the Kroger Company. Two weeks ago, large self-driving trucks from TuSimple began moving US mail between Phoenix and Dallas. A safety engineer and driver are on board to monitor the truck's performance and correct issues, if needed.
Auto-driving vehicles are here to stay. Technical and practical matters need to be resolved, as well as weather issues and always the ever-present human element of hacking and exploitation. But the robo-van has left the station and there is no turning back.
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 JD.com, Inc., aka: Jingdong and formerly called 360buy, is a Chinese e-commerce company.