On Dec. 15, GPU inventor NVIDIA announced at its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) that it will work with Chinese retail giant JD.com to build the first smart city with the world’s first level-4 smart delivery vehicle application.
The project is operating in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, a top 5 county-level city with the highest GDP in China. JD plans to put 100 smart delivery robots into operation in the city by the end of this year to facilitate the smart city construction.
Five of the latest smart delivery robot vehicles are already working on a trial run basis in Changshu. Each vehicle is equipped with two NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier platforms, the largest of which has a cargo space of 2 cubic meters, and can deliver more than 500 orders at a time.
The latest smart delivery robot can drive itself on open roads without human control and plans its own route based on the parcels’ addresses. It will send messages to recipients with a verification code so they can accurately pick up their packages.
With the growth of online shopping platforms, delivery volume has skyrocketed over the past few years. According to the State Post Bureau of China, nearly half of the couriers in China work 10 to 12 hours a day and the country delivered over 60 billion packages in the first ten months of this year.
The project aims to alleviate couriers’ workload. JD launched a delivery robot “adoption plan.” In Changshu, couriers can apply to adopt the delivery robots to assist their work. In this case, couriers can focus on parcel collection and more customized services.
During this year’s Double 11 (Nov. 11) shopping festival, couriers who adopted delivery robots showed a 50% to 100% increase in the number of orders they delivered.
“We expect JD’s delivery robots to largely improve couriers’ working efficiency and enable them to have more time to provide more caring and customized services to consumers, transforming their job from operations to management,” said Kong Qi, the head of JD Logistics’ automation program.
JD has been working with NVIDIA to develop its smart delivery robots since 2017. After years of research, JD Logistics revealed its 4.0 robot last year, which marks the world’s first level-4 smart driving technology that lowers the power consumption to 10% of the industry average (equivalent to a standard lightbulb).
During the pandemic, smart delivery has been a huge help for health workers. These robots ensure contactless delivery from post offices to hospitals and residential compounds. Within 107 days, the robots have traveled over 6,800 km and delivered more than 13,000 packages.
China is the global leader in the autonomous delivery sector. According to a report released by Qianzhan, the market scale of smart delivery in China is 110 million yuan and it is estimated that the artificial intelligence delivery market will reach 1.34 billion yuan by 2025.
As for the future, Kong sees a world of intimate connection between vehicles, roads, and the cloud. “People use traffic lights, whereas robots use network technology,” Kong said.