Meituan robots work with humans

Chinese delivery company Meituan has announced it is testing indoor robot delivery in 10 office buildings and hotels in Beijing and Shenzhen. The company is large, with more than half a million delivery drivers alone.

The plan is for robots and humans to work together, as part of a programme that has been developed since late 2016. The move is designed to tackle the problem of rising labour demands and costs.

Speaking at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in Shanghai last week, Xia Huaxia, chief scientist of Meituan, said that robots and humans would be working together in delivering orders in the foreseeable future.

Two of the robots are being tested in-house at Meituan. Xiaodai is an outdoor transport robot that roams around gated compounds. Meanwhile, Fudai is an indoor delivery robot that works around offices and hotel buildings, navigating around different floors using lifts.

With the help of indoor delivery robots, Meituan seeks to cut delivery time by five to seven minutes per food order, thus significantly improving delivery efficiency.

“We have done the calculation. If a delivery robot’s work life can last three years, the cost [of the robot] will not be higher than the labour cost,” chief scientist at Meituan Xia Huaxia said.

Meituan also plans to build its drone delivery network in the next five years. The drones would be able to deliver orders to users in a 5km range within 10 minutes, the company said.

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