According to Wang Haixuan, a reporter from Economic Observer.com, Meituan’s unmanned delivery vehicles have been put into use in Beijing’s Shunyi and Haidian districts recently. This small yellow car with a small body has attracted the attention of many people. During the epidemic, unmanned vehicles like this, which can reduce direct contact between people, are playing a role in many areas.
According to incomplete statistics from reporters from Economic Observer.com, as of February 20, there have been unmanned vehicles from 9 companies including Huawei, JD Logistics, Meituan, Yiqing Innovation, Xingshen Intelligence, Neolithic, Candela, Zhixingzhi, and White Rhino. Appeared in Wuhan City and other areas. Most of these unmanned vehicles working in specific areas are responsible for medical supplies, takeaway delivery, and cleaning and disinfection. The 5G unmanned vehicle jointly developed by Huawei and Dongfeng Motor can transport medical staff. Affected by changes in the epidemic, it is expected that more and more unmanned vehicles will appear in hospitals and quarantine areas.
During this epidemic, the smart delivery vehicles developed by JD Logistics are the first batch of unmanned vehicles to be put into use in Wuhan. It is understood that Wuhan No. 9 Hospital is the designated hospital for the treatment of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus in Wuhan. It has treated a large number of confirmed patients and is in the core area of this epidemic. JD Logistics Wuhan Renhe Station, which is 600 meters away from the hospital, almost supports the distribution of medical supplies for the Ninth Hospital.
Aside from delivering medical supplies at the epicentre of an outbreak, there are many uses for autonomous vehicles. Yiqing’s innovative “Kwafu” driverless express logistics vehicle has become the main force of logistics in an epidemic area in Shandong. It is responsible for delivering vegetables to the urban area. Each vehicle can deliver 1,500 kilograms of vegetables and fruits in a single trip. Neolithic’s unmanned delivery vehicles were previously responsible for distributing masks in public places in Beijing, Xi’an, Shenzhen and other places. Zhixing has launched an unmanned cleaning and disinfection vehicle, which can be responsible for indoor and outdoor cleaning.
The emergence of Meituan’s unmanned delivery vehicles has penetrated deeply into the daily lives of residents. Affected by the epidemic, “online grocery shopping” has become the preferred shopping method for many people. According to the “2020 Spring Festival Home Economy Big Data” recently released by Meituan, the average month-on-month increase in sales of various ingredients such as vegetables, meat and seafood has reached 200% in the past month.
The emergence of unmanned delivery vehicles has reduced the work pressure and infection risk of couriers. When the JD Logistics unmanned vehicle was put into use, the arrival rate of Wuhan Renhe distribution station was only 60%. Coupled with the increase in the number of couriers, the workload of couriers is very large. Meituan said that due to the concentration of orders, the sorting, packing personnel and riders of the Meituan grocery site are in short supply, and the transportation capacity is tight, and the demand for “contactless” distribution has further expanded.
In addition to reducing the workload, the whole process of “contactless” distribution is the main reason why unmanned vehicles can attract attention. During the epidemic, many communities implemented closed management, and couriers could not enter, but this problem did not exist in unmanned delivery vehicles. In addition, in places like Wuhan No. 9 Hospital, the risk of infection by delivery personnel is very high. These limitations make people realize the important role of self-driving cars. According to data from Jingdong Logistics, there are currently 10-20 orders from Wuhan Ninth Hospital every day, of which 50%-70% are delivered by unmanned vehicles.
This isn’t the first time self-driving cars have played a role in a pandemic. As early as the SARS outbreak in 2003, transport robots with similar functions appeared. In that year, the “Aim” transport robot developed by the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was put into use in May 2003. The transport robot can transport up to 30 kg of items at a time, and can work continuously for 3 hours after being fully charged. After more than ten years of development, the unmanned vehicles put into use this time have significantly improved in response speed, scale and quality.
In addition to China, which is plagued by the epidemic, there has also been new progress in the landing of unmanned delivery vehicles in the United States recently. On February 6, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved self-driving car startup Nuro to deploy up to 5,000 low-speed self-driving electric delivery vehicles over the next two years. It’s a self-driving, low-speed delivery van designed to make short journeys and only drive on pre-mapped neighborhood streets.
This is the first time U.S. regulators have approved a similar project. Nuro was in talks with the U.S. government for three years before it was approved. Despite the strict approval conditions proposed by NHTSA this time, new progress has been made in the landing of self-driving delivery vehicles in the United States. From this point of view, unmanned delivery vehicles are expected to play an increasingly important role in Chinese and foreign regions, which is a major trend.
However, after more and more unmanned vehicles were put into use in the epidemic area, some people in the industry also raised some doubts. For example, the pre-assembly and operation of unmanned vehicles at this stage is relatively complicated. Does this increase the workload of fighting the epidemic? In the face of a more complex hospital environment, can unmanned vehicles handle it? How to do a good job of disinfection of unmanned vehicles…
Such doubts are not unreasonable. A few days ago, Zhang Dezhao, CEO of I-Walk, said in an interview with the media that he initially planned to provide unmanned vehicles for hospitals in Wuhan, but in the end, considering the complex situation in the epidemic area and the risk of participating in the deployment of unmanned vehicle staff, this plan was not approved. implement.
In addition, most of the above-mentioned companies focusing on the field of unmanned vehicles are in their infancy. Except for Huawei, JD.com, and Meituan, the rest of the companies were established within 5 years. Among them, White Rhino, a driverless company focusing on logistics and distribution, was just established in 2019. During the epidemic, the unmanned delivery vehicles and robots of these companies appeared in various epidemic areas, and more and more people began to know about them.
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