At CES 2019 drone delivery systems grabbing spotlight, Meituan Dianping, China’s leading on demand food delivery company have announced its autonomous and open delivery platform in collaboration with three other companies. The collaboration includes Italian automotive design major Icona, American technology giant NVidia and Valeo, the French automotive company.
The announcement comes just months after the Beijing-based company went public with its public offering Hong Kong. The company according to the listing is valued at $53.4 billion. The company for the first attended the CES event and exhibited its Meituan Autonomous Delivery platform. The platform will combine expertise form three different companies to serve as an open platform. Valeo will be instrumental in providing engines and sensors for the platform, Icona its design expertise in vehicles and gadgets while NVidia’s technology will bring trial, research and development operations to the table.
The multilateral venture will create an open platform where different partners are provided technical and operational freedom to evolve their own autonomous delivery platform. MAD which launched in July 2018 has already roped in partners like Roadster, iDriverPlus, Segway-GX and Uditech.
Although MAD is very far from complete autonomous deliveries as some form of human participation may still be required. Autonomous delivery may include high speed vehicles coupled with drones, where multiple orders are delivered to a pick-up point before being picked up by a delivery representative. MAD’s principle rival Alibaba backed Ele.me launched last year, has already started delivering food though its drone delivery system after receiving approval from China’s regulatory body. The company claimed that it significantly reduced cost of delivery by only employing drivers for 15% of the route.
Although far behind its rival Ele.me in scale of operations and timeline, Meituan is conducting trial for the autonomous delivery at number of locations in China including Lenovo building in Shenzhen, Xiong’an New Area and Beijing’s Raffles City. The company believes that its international partnership with companies with both downstream and upstream companies in the value chain will address all impending issues in autonomous delivery. Xia Huaxia, Meituan’s chief scientist believes that Autonomous delivery is not purely a technical issue, and the company’s big ticket investments in deep learning, AI and big data will provide solutions for driverless delivery.
The company at CES 2019 also showcased Meituan Brain an ongoing project which aims to build world’s most expansive knowledge map for entertainment and catering. Meituan led by Chinese billionaire Wang Xing is operational in more than 2800 cities in China.