Meituan Dianping, China’s largest on-demand food delivery company, announced today at CES that it has signed three new major partners for the development of its autonomous delivery open platform. They are Nvidia, Italian automotive design company Icona, and French automotive supplier Valeo.
This is the first time Meituan Dianping, which went public four months ago in Hong Kong, has attended CES, where it exhibited its Meituan Autonomous Delivery (MAD) platform. Valeo will provide engines and sensors for MAD’s autonomous delivery vehicles and Nvidia’s technology will be used in its research and development and trial operations, while Icona will serve as a design partner for robots and vehicles.
Launched last July in Beijing, after a four-month trial, MAD’s partners already include Uditech, Segway-GX, iDriverPlus, and Roadster. As an open platform, MAD’s partners have beeen able to work on their own autonomous delivery vehicles. As TechNode notes, however, most orders still rely on a human delivery driver for at least part of the journey. For example, autonomous vehicles, including drones and low- or high-speed delivery vehicles, might gather orders from different restaurants and bring them to a pick-up point for the driver, or collect multiple orders and complete deliveries in an office park or university.
In a statement, Meituan senior vice president Wang Puzhong said “With the surging demand for food deliveries in China, Meituan is leveraging its platform and scale advantages to apply autonomous delivery technologies in its operations. We would like to work together with our partners to integrate resources from all parties to drive the large-scale and commercial application of autonomous delivery in China and around the world.”
As it develops, MAD might give Meituan Dianping an edge over its main rival, Alibaba’s Ele.me, which began drone deliveries last year that it claimks will dramatically lower its delivery costs by only requiring drivers for 15 percent of the route.
Meituan Dianping said it is now conducting trial operations of autonomous delivery in “a dozen locations in China,” including Shougang Park and Raffles City in Beijing, Xiong’an New Area in Hebei, and Shenzhen’s Lenovo Building. In addition to food delivery, Meituan Dianping is China’s largest e-commerce platform for in-store dining and also owns bike-sharing platform Mobike. It says it had 382.3 million annual transacting users and 5.5 million annual active merchants as of the end of Q3 2018 and operates in 2,800 cities and counties in China.