Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has completed its first delivery of medical aid via autonomous vehicle in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the current novel coronavirus outbreak.
Why it matters: The coronavirus epidemic may drastically accelerate real-life applications for deliveries via unmanned vehicles and drones in China, which has remained limited despite widespread attention.
- Apart from parcel delivery, unmanned driving technologies applications in food delivery and street sweeping may surge as human-to-human contact is discouraged across the country to reduce the risk of infection.
Details: JD’s unmanned vehicle delivered medical supplies to Wuhan Ninth Hospital from its Renhe delivery station 600 meters away, according to a company statement (in Chinese).
- A video of the delivery shows that users can collect their orders by inputting a pickup code.
- In addition to delivery vehicles, JD Logistics will open up its Level-4 autonomous driving solutions, allowing more autonomous delivery robot manufacturers to update and benefit from the technology, according to the company. Level 4 automation refers to vehicles which can operate in self-driving mode within a limited area.
- JD Logistics will also use drones for delivery to remotes areas in Hebei, Shaanxi, and Jiangsu provinces which have also been hit by the virus.
- Shenzhen municipality in southern China has started to adopt autonomous robots for street sweeping and public area disinfection, according to Chinese media reports.
- Regional governments are pushing (in Chinese) for unmanned delivery solutions to prevent spreading the virus.
Context: The noval virus has claimed 637 lives after sickening more than 31,200 individuals on the Chinese mainland as of Friday.