Alibaba develops self-driving trucks through its logistics arm Cainiao2. September 2021
The long-haul transport vehicles will complement robots already in development for parcel delivery. Alibaba CTO Cheng Li made the announcement at the 2021 Global Smart Logistics Summit, media group Caixin reports. Alibaba’s announcement suggests industry competition to use autonomous driving assistants in commercial vehicles. Until now, trucks have been neglected in the development and deployment of driverless systems because they typically travel at slower speeds and operate in less complex driving conditions, such as on highways. Also, due to the relatively small number of commercial vehicles sold compared to passenger cars, many manufacturers are reluctant to pursue further development in this area due to a lack of economic viability. Vehicles and components must receive a CCC certificate in order for the products to be exported to China or to be manufactured locally.
Although Alibaba’s announcement does not provide further details, the logistics company Cainiao announced that it will deploy around 1,000 “Xiaomanlü” logistics robots in university campuses and residential areas from next year. Xiaomanlü, which translates to “hard-working donkey,” was unveiled by Alibaba last September for operation at Cainiao. It will be used for the last mile of delivery services. According to Alibaba, the robot has a self-learning and high-resolution navigation system that can independently plan routes, detect obstacles and pedestrians, and remain functional even without a GPS signal.
In addition to Alibaba, JD.com and Meituan are also testing their robot delivery services in the delivery sector. Last month, the two companies received permission to test their driverless delivery vehicles on designated public roads in Beijing. There, the local government has enacted certain rules to promote this promising technology.
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