Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is forwarding an artificial intelligence (A.I.)-enabled future in logistics the launch of two “smart” delivery stations in Changsha and Hohhot, which utilize robots and facial recognition software – and cuteness, let’s admit – to complete last-mile deliveries.
The golf cart-sized autonomous vehicles, complete with a front screen display that suggests cartoon eyes, can carry up to 30 parcels within a three-mile radius, and are able to plan routes and recognize obstacles and traffic lights. JD Logistics said that, at full capacity, the stations can deliver up to 2,000 packages a day with “a half-half split” between robots and its alternative courier methods.
The facilities serve the high-density inland populations of Changsha – which sits in proximity to the Yangtze watershed in south central China – and Hohhot, about 1,000 miles north, in inner Mongolia. Upon reaching their destination, the robots are enabled with facial recognition software to identify the correct recipient.
“As JD opens its technology up to other companies and industries, the features that we’ve already rolled out in China from automated warehouses to virtual shopping are going to be enjoyed by consumers everywhere,” Zhang said, referring to the company’s “retail-as-a-service” (RaaS) strategy.
JD says it can currently deliver more than 90 percent of its orders on the same day, or by the next day, and covers 99 percent of China’s population. It defines its objective as shortening delivery times and expanding its network to create a “boundaryless retail vision,” in which “consumers can buy whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want it.” The vision echoes a similar sentiment to that of fellow China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose CEO Jack Ma famously touted the company’s goal of being able to deliver any product anywhere in the world within 72 hours.
JD Logistics made headlines in November when it announced the launch of its own 737 freighter service, which marks a major change in strategy for the company. Before the 737Fs, the company had long relied on moving airfreight in the belly holds of passenger aircraft.
The company will be present at its first Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas which takes place this week from Jan. 8-11, where attendees can get up close and personal with JD’s drones, delivery robots and augmented reality software. Here’s a sneak peek video: