JD.com is providing its unmanned delivery solutions to Japanese off- and online retailers including Rakuten and Walmart’s Japanese supermarket unit, Seiyu GK, in the debut of one of Japan’s first commercial autonomous vehicle delivery services.

Why it matters: JD.com’s automated delivery push using vehicles and aerial drones is part of a wider push to improve efficiency and accuracy within the logistics industry. Other Chinese tech giants, like Alibaba and Meituan, are also investing heavily in the area.

  • The deal is an extension of the partnership in unmanned technologies that JD.com and Rakuten began earlier this year.
  • In addition to Japan, the company is also testing drone delivery in Indonesia.
  • The Japanese government is planning to set up public and private sector councils and establish standards for carrying out trials on public roads in 2019.

“By offering users the opportunity to experience the convenience of UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), and by building its own real-world expertise in the operation of UGV-based delivery services, Rakuten aims to promote the adoption of UGV delivery services across a variety of locations, including public roads.

⁠—Mai Futamura, Rakuten spokesperson to TechNode

Details: During its trial program, Rakuten’s autonomous delivery service will be available within Umikaze Park in the central Japanese city of Yokosuko during weekends between September 21 to October 27, mainly targeting tourists visiting during the holiday season.

  • The program now operates one autonomous vehicle, which has a maximum payload weight of 5 kilograms (11 pounds), according to Rakuten.
  • The delivery range in Umikaze Park is about 600 meters per lap, with a maximum of 12 deliveries per day.
  • Visitors to Umikaze Park who download the Rakuten Drone app onto their smartphone can place orders through the app to select from around 400 products on offer at the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store located near the park. The categories will range from food and beverages for barbecues to first aid supplies.
  • Users can specify the location and time for the delivery and pay online with Rakuten Pay.
  •  Users can collect their orders by inputting a code received via push message.
  • The delivery service costs JPY 300 (around $2.8) per order.

Context: Rakuten recently announced a local drone delivery program to an island in Tokyo Bay, which uses JD drones to deliver to visitors to the island via the Rakuten Drone app.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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