Rising labor costs and the need to reduce social logistics cost is increasingly prominent in China. Profit margins in the logistics industry are not very high. Introducing autonomous delivery will improve the structure of the industry and margins in the long run. JD presents ‘lessons learned’ on the why, how, and when of autonomous delivery vehicles. JD debuted its first autonomous delivery vehicle in September 2016.
JD revealed its 4.0 robot in 2019 following years of research and iterations and became the world’s first company to apply Level-4 autonomous driving delivery technology on public roads without any human interaction. The core of JD’s autonomous delivery robots is the autonomous driving system developed in-house. The vehicles will carry packages from delivery stations or supermarkets to nearby office buildings, residential compounds, and school campuses. JD’s autonomous delivery vehicle will automatically call the customer and send a message with a pick-up code once it arrives at the pick-up point.
In addition to satisfying consumers’ demands for instant delivery, the adoption of autonomous delivery vehicles can potentially re-allocate couriers’ working time by releasing them from parcel delivery and giving them the chance to spend more time on customer service and maintenance of vehicles. For example, in Changshu, over one out of five of JD’s delivery stations have used autonomous delivery vehicles for daily operations, enabling couriers to deliver 1,5 times the orders during peak sales seasons.
Looking at the CEP industry from a global perspective, China has an advantage over other countries. Its road conditions are much more complicated than in the US, which means running the same distance, the vehicle will learn more, and the technology will grow faster.
JD also researched a cloud simulation platform that accumulates historical operations data and can discern how the robot should behave in numerous traffic scenarios, improving the vehicle’s ability to drive safely on open roads. Its autonomous delivery vehicle management platform can enable one staff member to supervise as many as 50 to 100 vehicles in operation simultaneously to handle unexpected situations.
JD has over 400 patents in unmanned delivery, covering the aspects of environment sensing, high-resolution mapping, simulation, operating system, design, and more. JD expects to build the autonomous vehicle for around 10.000 euros.