China's Neolix Begins Producing Autonomous Delivery Vans

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【Summary】Chinese startup Neolix began production of its autonomous delivery van recently, becoming the first company in the world to begin producing self-driving cars on a mass scale.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jul 10, 2019 4:00 AM PT
China's Neolix Begins Producing Autonomous Delivery Vans

Automotive gurus have claimed that the first autonomous vehicles won't go to consumers, but will, instead, be used to ferry passengers and goods around. It turns out that they were right. Bloomberg reports that the first set of mass-produced driverless vehicles are being built in China, and they're delivery vans.

Neolix Breaks The Autonomous Ice

According to the outlet, Chinese startup Neolix began production of its mass-produced self-driving delivery vans earlier this week. The startup already has large companies lined up as customers, including Huawei and JD.Com Inc. With production underway, Neolix expects to deliver a thousand of the delivery vans within the first year of production.

As with everything in the autonomous realm, being first is key. Billionaire Jack Ma believes that 1 billion deliveries will take place in China every day within a decade, and whatever companies come up with a way to automate those would make big bucks.

"Driverless cars will change the world, just like the shift from the carriage to the automobile," said Neolix Founder Yu Enyuan in an interview. "I have been looking for something that is worth fighting with everything I have and what I am doing now is that."

Neolix's autonomous van costs roughly $30,000 and has been tested in enclosed areas, including Chinese campuses. While the self-driving vans are catered to delivering goods at the moment, Neolix also sees its self-driving vans complete things like running errands and 24/7 mobile vending in the near future. Production of the vans will begin in Changzhou with the company set to come out with 30,000 units a year.

Why Delivery Vans?

"We want to start with the smallest product," said Yu. "When robotaxis really enter our daily lives, we may already have over a million self-driving vehicles in use, and makers of those vehicles will be a key driver behind the autonomous-driving technology."

Autonomous delivery vans are the most obvious area for startups to venture into first, as they will they'll have immediate returns. There's no need to pay a delivery driver, less chance of an accident, and less chance of a package going missing. Bloomberg claims that there's one limitation with self-driving vehicles and that comes down to a human needing to be present to accept a package or someway for the vehicle to physically leave the package at a specific location.

Neolix isn't the only company looking into autonomous vehicles, though, it is the first to produce them on a mass level. There are numerous companies in the U.S. exploring the possibility of having an autonomous vehicle delivery packages to consumers. Nuro is working with Kroger for an autonomous grocery delivery service, Ford has partnered with both Walmart and Postmates, AutoX has a self-driving grocery delivery service, and the U.S. Postal Service is testing trucks from TuSimple.

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