Two of China’s largest delivery and logistics companies have officially launched autonomous package delivery services, marking the first time this technology is being put to commercial use in the country.
China Post and Deppon Express will both begin deliveries via their ‘self-driving’ trucks in April, centreing on the Zhejiang Province, along the coast of Eastern China. The launch is being enabled by a startup called FABU, which has offices in China and the U.S.
Self-driving trucks use Artificial Intelligence to operate, with the technology allowing the vehicles to navigate the correct routes, avoid hazards and obstacles and produce lower levels of pollution through efficiency. The FABU-powered trucks use ‘Level 4’ self-driving technology, meaning that the vehicle is predominantly self-operating, however a human driver can still take control when necessary.
“We are very excited that FABU technology is at the heart of the first autonomous delivery trucks in China,” Xiaofei He, CEO of the startup said in a statement.
“China Post and Deppon Express have also been very pleased with the performance of FABU self-driving technology in their trucks and plan on expanding their autonomous delivery services to 100 routes in the near future.”
Both companies have been testing the technology for a number of months, with China Post beginning their partnership with FABU in November 2018. The vehicles successfully delivered more than 60,000 parcels during their testing period, covering more than 2,200 miles.
Testing included trucks driving in daylight and at night throughout the winter, which also saw challenging weather conditions like fog and snow. The trucks also operated through a number of different landscapes: from residential streets to schools and crowded markets. The entire period was also the busiest of the Chinese commerce year, with Christmas, New Year and Singles Day all falling within the testing period.
China is among the plethora of countries suffering from a driver shortage worldwide, and as e-commerce rises, so the gap widens. Automating last-mile delivery has been long cited as a necessary development for helping to solve the problem, and the implementation of self-driving vehicles is one part of the solution.