(Yicai Global) April 20 -- Baidu Inc., one of China’s top four technology firms, has partnered the firm behind the country’s largest on-demand services provider Meituan to pilot unmanned meal delivery services in Xiong'an New Area.
A Baidu employee unveiled the plans at a presentation for the firm’s open driverless platform Apollo yesterday, online news portal Sina Tech reported. The trial will take place in a designated area under restrictive conditions.
Driverless deliveries will target larger deliveries so will be slower than the traditional approach, but should prove safer and more cost-effective, the staffer said.
Meal delivery services have become a billion-dollar business in China after rising to prominence over the past few years. The country’s top e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. announced earlier this month that it would take full ownership of Shanghai Lazhasi Information Technology Co., which runs popular platform and Meituan rival Ele.me, in a deal that valued the target at USD9.5 billion.
The pair picked Xiong'an for the pilot program as it is set to become China’s innovation hub, the employee added. Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to make the region a state-level new area on April 1 last year to drive development in the heart of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
Baidu has come a long way in the self-driving field since releasing Apollo last April, obtaining licenses to conduct autonomous driving road tests in Fujian province and the municipalities of Beijing and Chongqing, three of the four regions where such tests are permitted. Shanghai is the fourth. Baidu founder and Chairman Robin Li said during China’s 2018 Two Sessions, the annual assemblies of China's top legislative and political advisory bodies, that the company was in talks with Xiong'an authorities and had plans to test unmanned vehicles there as soon as possible.
Editor: James Boynton