Alibaba is deploying 1,000 delivery bots across Chinese university campuses and urban communities this year.
The robots, called Xiaomanlv or “small donkey” in Mandarin, can deliver about 50 packages at one time and as many as 500 packages in one day, covering 100 kilometres on a single charge.
The robots pick up parcels at a local courier drop-off point and make their way to building, trundling along sidewalks and in bicycle lanes.
In the future, the robots could replace forklifts in factories, dispose of medical waste in hospitals and even move luggage around airports.
Damo Academy is working with Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao to deploy the robots, known in the industry as autonomous mobile robots.
Damo Academy will analyze insights gathered from these early models and then upgrade the bots to be safe to maneuver even on public roads.
“In three to five years, we hope to make progress in autonomous driving in faster speed scenarios and make deliveries over longer distances,” said Wang Gang, head of Damo Autonomous Driving Lab in Hangzhou, in an interview with Alizila.