Alibaba to roll out 1000 delivery robots

Alibaba has published a blog stating why it is deploying 1000 delivery robots across China. It aims to deal with some of the weaknesses of human last mile delivery.

“Last-mile delivery has always been the knotty problem of e-commerce,” according to Alibaba. “It’s costly, time-consuming and largely unmapped.

“This final leg in a journey that stretches from the manufacturer to the buyer can flummox human couriers. Delivery people can get lost trying to find a flat in a tower block or navigate a large housing estate.”

The post looks gently at the technology that drives the robots while taking an aim at the weaknesses of human delivery drivers.”Alibaba’s robots will be able to make the trip without deviations or smoke breaks”.

The Alibaba delivery robots will pick up parcels at a local micro-hub and use footpaths and bike lanes to deliver the final mile. According to the web giant, the robots can predict the next 5-10 seconds of movement by nearby vehicles and people, and manage to avoid collisions 99.9999% of the time.

Trials of the delivery robots have however taken place at university campuses and housing estates as its testbeds thanks to the locations having less traffic and slower moving vehicles than cities and towns.

One of the biggest drivers, smoking aside, for going for delivery robots is that China has an ageing population that will in the near to medium term lead to a recruitment crisis for logistics companies seeking delivery drivers.