Self-Driving Business of Alibaba’s DAMO Academy Merged into Cainiao

On May 13, Alibaba‘s research institute DAMO Academy was reported to be undergoing a major organizational restructuring. The autonomous driving laboratory, which has long been unable to generate profits, will be merged into Cainiao, the logistics arm of Alibaba. Subsequently, Alibaba confirmed this news to Chinese media, citing “business needs” as the reason.

Subsequently, Jiemian reported that Alibaba DAMO Academy’s autonomous driving laboratory has a total of about 300 employees. Although this department was placed under the technology team of Cainiao’s CTO, only about 80-90 employees were transferred to Cainiao. The remaining more than 200 employees were laid off, accounting for approximately 70%. However, Alibaba denied the layoff news.

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Public information shows that as early as the end of 2015, Cainiao, a subsidiary of Alibaba, established the Cainiao ET Laboratory with the goal of developing cutting-edge logistics technology products and pursuing logistics production methods that are in line with future technological development. This also laid the foundation for research and development of unmanned logistics vehicles.

Later, Cainiao ET Lab launched an end-to-end delivery robot called “Xiao G”, which is a ground-walking robot that can automatically deliver packages to users’ doorsteps. Xiao G is the prototype of Alibaba‘s later Xiaomanlv.

In September 2021, when the number of delivery orders for Xiaomanlv reached one million, Wang Gang, the chief scientist of Alibaba‘s artificial intelligence laboratory, boasted that in three years, the scale of Xiaomanlv’s fleet would reach 10,000 vehicles and daily package deliveries were expected to reach one million. Whether this goal has been achieved is still unknown.

In March 2022, Daniel Zhang, the Chairman and CEO of Alibaba, announced a company-wide transformation called “1+6+N”. This adjustment means that Alibaba‘s businesses will step out of the group’s “greenhouse” and face the market independently. Against this backdrop, the autonomous driving laboratory with long-term unclear value became the object of adjustment.