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With rising labor costs, Meituan (China's largest food delivery service popularly recognized as the Kangaroo guys), has been looking into robots as a way to lower costs, and has recently begun testing indoor robot delivery in 10 office buildings and hotels in Beijing and Shenzhen.


Drivers of food delivery service Meituan are seen in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

 

At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in Shanghai last Thursday, Xia Huaxia, chief scientist of Meituan, said they have already delivered thousand of orders.

Meituan currently has more than 600,000 delivery drivers and handles more than 25 million orders daily. They first set up a team to develop unmanned delivery services in October 2016, as they forecast their delivery service to grow by 200 per cent by 2025, according to Xia.

 

Two of the robots being tested are developed by Meituan itself:

  • Xiaodai: an outdoor transport robot, can roam around gated compounds and claims to be able to choose the best delivery routes and avoid obstacles on the road. 
  • Fudai: an indoor delivery robot, works mainly inside hotels and office buildings, and can bring food orders to users on different floors by using lifts.

With the help of indoor delivery robots, Meituan seeks to cut delivery time by five to seven minutes per order, thus significantly improving delivery efficiency. They claim delivery drivers, on average, spend five to 10 minutes on waiting for pickups or looking up for users when they deliver to an office building or hotel address. 

Meituan also plans to build its drone delivery network in the next five years. The drones would be able to deliver orders to users in a 5km range within 10 minutes, the company said.

Meituan is not the first to venture into the autonomous delivery sector. Amazon has been testing drone delivery Prime Air and patented its autonomous delivery truck technology in March. JD.com (JD), one of China's largest e-commerce platforms, has also been testing the delivery of packages by drones.

Sources: 

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