China's Suning Completes Testing of L4 Autonomous Truck

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【Summary】Called the Strolling Dragon, the vehicle is considered to be the largest unmanned truck in the company’s fleet.

Michael Cheng    May 31, 2018 3:06 PM PT
China's Suning Completes Testing of L4 Autonomous Truck

Suning Logistics, a China-based company that specializes in large-scale commercial deliveries, announced the completion of a trial involving autonomous trucks. Functioning under Suning Holdings Group, the business is in the process of developing a driverless truck with level 4 self-driving capabilities.

Called the Strolling Dragon, the vehicle is considered to be the largest unmanned truck in the company's fleet. During programmed operation, input from a human driver is not required.

Suning has big plans for the Strolling Dragon, as the truck will likely be deployed to support busy retail shops and brands around China. In addition to developing driverless trucks, the business is also setting up infrastructural components to support its future fleet.

Strolling Dragon Fleet

In order to ensure safety, the Strolling Dragon was tested rigorously. The vehicle passed both trials conducted at the campus site and highway-scenario tests on roadways. It is the first autonomous truck created by a China-based company to accomplish such milestones.

"The success of Strolling Dragon's self-driving tests is a groundbreaking accomplishment for Suning, and represents another step forward in our Online-to-Offline (O2O) smart retail strategy," said Zhang Jindong, Chairman of Suning Holdings Group.

Suning's autonomous trucks are capable of performing several impressive driving maneuvers. On the road, the units can detect obstacles, obstructions and other vehicles as far as 984 feet (300 meters) away – while traveling at highway speeds, with a detection response rate of 25 ms.

At this rate, the trucks can safely travel at roughly 50 mph (80 kph). Using cutting-edge lasers and radar equipment, risks associated with emergency stops are greatly reduced.

Automating Solutions in Logistics

At the moment, Suning employs over 100,000 truck drivers. It believes automated delivery solutions will improve safety and decrease accidents caused by human errors. In a statement, the company acknowledged growing concerns about the potential phase-out of human truck drivers.

Suning advised the public, stating the adoption of self-driving technology for trucks will assist human drivers, not replace them. Moreover, the level of consistency and efficiency of driverless trucks may be effective in addressing the country's aging population – an issue affecting a myriad of countries, from Singapore to Japan.

"Suning's goal is to develop its logistics business into the biggest and most intelligent retail infrastructure network in China," explained Jindong.

"The promise of automation solutions will not only boost efficiency in Suning's logistics operations, but also benefit the industry, and consumers, by offering more possibilities, and a better shopping experience."

To streamline the deployment of autonomous trucks in China, Suning recently unveiled its Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) warehouse during a peak holiday-shopping period last year.

In January, the group also showcased an autonomous concept retail store, called Biou. The concept could be related to its recently launched autonomous delivery robots (called Biu) in April. Based on these developments, it seems that Suning intends to offer a complete autonomous shopping experience for local businesses and consumers.    

Suning is very vocal about making new investments in the smart logistics sector. It is open to creating new partnerships to further develop its autonomous ecosystem.

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