Deqing, Zhejiang Province became the first city in China to issue open road test licenses for L4 unmanned automated driving trucks, and Alibaba announced that it had obtained one of the first batch of two licenses on Monday. An unmanned truck named “Damanlv,” which has been developed by Alibaba‘s DAMO Academy, will carry out road tests in designated areas in the city, including some high-speed sections.
Road tests are a necessary condition for the development of automated driving technology and implementation of related products. Meanwhile, road tests of unmanned automated driving, which means no safety guards are on the vehicle, are an important link leading to high-level automated driving. Chen Junbo, technical director at the Autonomous Driving Laboratory of DAMO Academy, said: “Alibaba has always focused on L4 automated driving. The road test license issued by Deqing will accelerate the R&D progress of our L4 unmanned trucks and help us promote automated driving to open roads and high-speed trunk lines.”
Alibaba began to explore R&D and application of automated driving in the logistics field in 2015. Combining the advanced technology of its DAMO Academy and the logistics application of Cainiao, the company launched automated driving product “Xiaomanlv” in 2020.
Xiaomanlv adopts L4 technical solutions to serve the distribution of parcels, food and fresh groceries in the last three kilometers to receivers. By the end of March 2022, the cumulative distribution orders exceeded 10 million, setting a new record for unmanned distribution in the industry.
Alibaba has also started technical research for open roads. In 2018, it obtained the first automated driving road test license in Hangzhou, and it has carried out operations in designated areas of the city.
In April and May this year, dozens of Xiaomanlv unmanned vehicles were sent to carry out contactless distribution to Shanghai communities free of charge. During the city’s recently-concluded pandemic lockdown period, Huangpu District of Shanghai temporarily granted the team open road driving authority. The fleet accumulated more than 3,000 km of driving mileage in Shanghai and distributed more than 600,000 units, with no recorded accidents.
Alibaba said that it will continue to invest in science, technology and innovation-intensive fields in the future, and automated driving is the key direction. In the past year, Alibaba has poured more than 120 billion yuan ($17.9 billion) in technology, and the figure has been steadily increasing for three years.