China Post (中国邮政), the country’s state postal service provider, began to leverage a combination of autonomous driving and robotics to upgrade its delivery capabilities on June 16 at its headquarters in Xicheng District of Beijing.
In a pilot aimed at promoting wider adoption of robotics to automate the traditional postal business, China Post paired outdoor autonomous vehicles with indoor robots.
By coordinating their operation, the state courier operator has built a new model of unmanned indoor and outdoor delivery.
China Post said in a news release that it can deploy this new form of logistics to commercial buildings, large industrial parks and door-to-door delivery, considerably enhancing the use of autonomous vehicles and robots.
Compared to existing forms of last-mile delivery, the integrated solution employed by China Post is able to increase efficiency by more than 50%. It is even 30% more effective relative to similar means of “smart logistics,” a China Post-affiliated newspaper reported, without specifying.
During a trial run between March 15 and May 19 this year, the robot-powered courier system dispatched an average 30 orders a day, with each errand taking about five minutes. The system has logged a cumulative delivery time of 3,910 minutes.
Within the system, the outdoor vehicle has L4 autonomous driving capabilities, and adopts an industry-leading modular design, where vehicle-mounted lockers and bins are detachable and replaceable depending on customized needs and scenarios.
In the meantime, based on multisource deep fusion sensing technologies, the vehicle enables precise positioning and seamless connection with indoor robots.
It comes with “quintuple safeguards” incorporating lidars, supersonic sensor, motion tracking camera, emergency stop button and soft bumper strips. There are three modes to choose from, namely, autonomous driving, on-the-spot remote driving and tele-operated driving.
Inside an establishment, a fleet of robots are on standby to pick up parcels and packages handed over by the outdoor vehicles.
Equipped with sensing, cognitive and navigation modules, the robots are smart enough to request elevator rides, pass through turnstiles and avoid obstacles inside a building on their own.
They also interact with receivers of mail or packages via text or voice messages while in action, delivering a better use experience.
With the integrated indoor and outdoor logistics solution now being applied on a pilot basis, China Post has stepped up efforts to facilitate its digital transition and build up its digital capacity.
Going forward, it will continue to optimize the robot-enabled indoor and outdoor solutions to supply shopping arcades, government halls, colleges and industrial parks with full-process smart logistics services, according to a company statement.
Additionally, the state courier operator will expand the pilot to a select few provinces and make adjustments on a case-by-case basis, taking into account customer feedback and specific application scenarios.
With the recent scheme fueling its digital drive, China Post has set sights on rolling out a new business model, featuring use of smart indoor robots to empower new retail.