Meituan, one of China’s biggest group buying service providers, today announced an ambitious strategy to support autonomous delivery vehicles: “The company is going to use self-driving technologies to build the world’s largest interactive platform for intelligent delivery, and to speed up the development of unmanned delivery technology.”
Meituan’s unmanned delivery strategy is taking two paths: The company will build and develop its own research team; and will also cooperate with independent research institutes and self-driving companies through its new Meituan Autonomous Delivery Open Platform. Confirmed partners include Uditech, Segway, IDriverPlus, Roadstar, AutoX and DeepBlue Technology. These partners’ autonomous vehicles have been used in a wide range of daily life service environments including hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.
Meituan also encouraged upstream and downstream self-driving companies to join their platform, highlighting its Operational Support, including the use of historical data to optimize vehicle deployment; Merchant Connections with Meituan’s 4.4 million merchant network; Increased Sales through local sales teams, and Vehicle Maintenance support.
Meituan is taking two approaches to the food delivery sector. In the first, the unmanned delivery vehicle uses self path-planning and navigation to transport the food order to a local delivery person, who takes it to the customer. This method suits large supermarkets and restaurants that are far from the customer. The second approach focuses on last-mile delivery. A human driver transports the order to the customer’s area, then the autonomous delivery vehicle drives the last leg to the customer, who uses a verification code sent via phone to collect the order. This method is appropriate for delivery to congested areas such as central business districts, office buildings and universities.
For Meituan, the development of unmanned delivery is still at an early stage. Human delivery persons are still required even though the autonomous vehicles can perform large parts of the delivery process. The company expects their unmanned delivery vehicles to first appear on public roads by the end of this year, and says it will expand its service areas in 2019.
Author: Jessie Geng | Editor: Michael Sarazen