Driverless trucks on the way

Updated 2018-01-24 13:53:02 China Daily

Trucks driving themselves out of warehouses and heading off along long, winding highways with precious parcels-a scenario that might come sooner than many people expect.

Cainiao Network Technology Co Ltd, the logistics affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is hiring 30 autonomous driving experts at its Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, headquarters and Beijing office, the latest indication of the company betting big in this area. The posts include research and development personnel specializing in visual systems, navigation algorithms and platform development, according to Alibaba's recruitment website.

Cainiao confirmed a social media post, in which an unnamed Cainiao engineer identified driverless trucks as the company's "next frontier" and the very reason he joined Cainiao.

"Without a doubt, autonomous driving will first gain a foothold in the logistics area, because the economies of scale would help to lower labor costs in several years," said the engineer on Zhihu, a Quora-like knowledge-sharing forum in China.

The application scenarios are also relatively simple, according to the Cainiao engineer, given that trucks are either cruising down freeways or serving as point-to-point, last-mile delivery, reducing risks and uncertainties.

"We can confirm that the post and the hiring plans are both true," said a text reply from the company's public relations team, without elaborating.

The firm's automation ambitions first came to light last year, including the launch of a robotics filter center in Guangdong province and the enlistment of an army of car-shaped robots for last-mile deliveries.

China's explosive e-commerce market and increasing labor costs are forcing logistics service providers to look for alternative approaches, said Charlie Dai, principal analyst at consultancy Forrester.

"While the advent of the self-driving car will rest on the decisions of individual consumers, logistics companies will upgrade their fleets the moment it makes financial sense," said Neil Wang, president of Frost & Sullivan Greater China.

Long-distance goods transport could be a common application of autonomous driving, because the "platooning" of trucks can help the rear vehicle brake and accelerate in line with the truck in front, eliminating the need for drivers in the whole fleet and therefore trimming total costs, according to Philipp Kampshoff, a partner at global consultancy McKinsey.

But companies vying for dominance should first iron out several technological glitches, such as ensuring better internet of things support for goods monitoring, as well as more responsive and proactive mechanisms for vehicle control and navigation, said Dai from Forrester.

Tesla Inc unveiled an electric semi-truck last year. Uber Technologies Inc, Volkswagen AG, Nvidia Corp and Baidu Inc have all pledged to put self-driving cars, including trucks, on the road.

Also in the News

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time
Showbiz2016/06/16 13:58February 25 2018 09:30:24

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time

Attending Shanghai International Film Festival, Nicole Kidman talks about her role in "Grace of Monaco".

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts
Also in the News2014/05/01 12:16February 25 2018 09:30:24

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'
Also in the News2014/04/18 13:18February 25 2018 09:30:24

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'

Hollywood star Johnny Depp's speech in the upcoming new film "Transcendence" has been disclosed on Friday, April 11th.

Most Watched

News:
China World Business Sports Showbiz Audio
Video:
C4 My Chinese Life The Sound Stage China Revealed Showbiz Video Travel Video
Photos:
China World Fun Travel Entertainment Sports
Travel:
Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou
Lifestyle:
Live Music Opera & Classical Movies Traditional Shows Exhibitions
Learn Chinese:
Chinese Studio Living Chinese Everyday Chinese Just For Fun Chinese Culture Buzzwords