Robots won’t replace the millions of delivery workers who crisscross Chinese cities every day, carrying food and groceries to consumers in all sorts of weather. Instead, humans and machines will collaborate, making sure tasty meals make it to hungry mouths in a timely manner.

At least this is the kind of scenario that China’s food review and delivery giant Meituan Dianping envisions. “Human-machine collaboration will be the model for autonomous food delivery for a very long period of time,” says Xia Huaxia, the company’s chief scientist, and general manager of the autonomous delivery department.

That’s good news for Meituan’s delivery workers. The company had more than half a million average daily active deliver persons in the fourth quarter of 2017. These people—mainly young men—dart around the streets of the country’s cities and towns, decked out in the company’s signature yellow uniforms. Meituan rival Ele.me had around 3 million registered delivery workers as of late 2018.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.