Lifestyle services giant Meituan is testing robot food delivery in Beijing and Shenzhen, as the company seeks to reduce operational costs, the South China Morning Post reported.

Why it matters: As labor demands increase, Meituan has been testing automated service robots in a bid to support growth and increase efficiency while controlling costs. The company currently has more than 600,000 delivery people and handles in excess of 25 million orders a day.

  • Meituan forecasts that its delivery service will grow by 200% by 2025.

“We have done the calculation. If a delivery robot’s work life can last three years, the cost [of the robot] will not be higher than the labor cost.”

—Xia Huaxia, chief scientist of Meituan, to SCMP

Details: The company is testing indoor robots in 10 hotels and office buildings, which have already delivered thousands of orders, Xia said.

  • Meituan aims to cut indoor delivery times by five to seven minutes per order.
  • The company is also testing outdoor automated delivery, with a robot that can navigate gated communities and avoid obstacles.
  • Both robots are being developed by Meituan.
  • The company also plans to expand its drone delivery network within the next five years, hoping to service users in a five-kilometer range within 10 minutes.

Context: Meituan first set up its unmanned delivery team in 2016 and launched its autonomous delivery platform in Beijing last year.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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