Meituan’s autonomous delivery robots have taken this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas by storm. The cute and handy robots were amongst the best-received items on display during the event, which also sees a host of other Chinese tech companies like Baidu and Alibaba in attendance.
While our China-based readers may already be familiar with the innovative method of delivery, which has been tested in cities like Shenzhen and Beijing over the past 12 months, Twitter has been abuzz with users outside of China posting about the next step in Meituan’s plan to disrupt the food delivery industry here in China.
Screengrab via @NicoleWakelin/Twitter
Screengrab via @stephenakirk/Twitter
While the robots certainly put on a show for visitors, Meituan made headlines by announcing that they have partnered with three international companies for their autonomous delivery platform. The move sees the company take another step forward in making autonomous delivery a part of daily life. As stated by the company on Twitter, they are aiming to “develop a complete industry value chain for autonomous delivery.”
Their new partners are: Valeo from France, NVIDIA from US, and Icona from Italy. Valeo is an automotive supplier, and will provide key components, such as engines and sensors, for Meituan’s autonomous robots. NVIDIA, which is a leader in AI computing, will provide technical support during the research and development and testing processes, while Icona, an automotive design company, will be Meituan's design partner for the robots.
All the way back in April 2017, Wang Xing, the CEO of Meituan Dianping, expressed his intention to cut costs by developing food-delivery robots during a summit in Beijing. “Driverless cars and robots are not that far away in the future and it is my view that food-delivering robots will appear even sooner than driverless cars,” said Wang, adding that the use of data and artifical intelligence will bring down costs and delivery times.
Well, it appears the day that we receive our waimai from a robot is fast approaching, with Meituan taking bold steps towards conquering the oncoming autonomous delivery industry. (Let’s not forget that other ecommerce companies like JD.com are also striving towards the same goal).
The announcement puts the cherry on top of a good few days for Meituan. Their platform, which can also be used for booking hotel rooms, recently announced that 2 million room-nights (rooms booked multiplied by total nights stay) had been registered on their platform in one day (Dec 31, 2018), a 30 percent improvement on the previous record, which was set in 2017.
[Cover image via @meituandianping/Twitter]