Chinese tech giant Alibaba is, essentially, Chinese Amazon. Much like the Bezos-founded capitalist monolith that stretches over the west, Alibaba does the same for the east. For further comparison, Amazon's 2016 bid to replace delivery drivers with robotic drones has been matched with new delivery robots.
Alibaba delivery robots launch in China
Reported by The Register, 1000 Alibaba delivery robots are rolling out across China. The robots are not designed to replace delivery drivers outright; the company's robotic force is only for “last-mile drop-offs”.
The company explains that last-mile deliveries are proving “costly, [and] time-consuming”. The robots will instead be in charge of those final minutes delivery men often spend scouring streets for the right house. As such, the typical delivery force will be in charge of dropping off parcels in dedicated locations.
Alibaba’s robots use AI systems that smartly stick to footpaths and bike lanes on the way to drop off packages. The AI programs are constantly predicting the movement of pedestrian and vehicular traffic while it moves to avoid collisions. Apparently, it’s 99.9% successful at avoiding bumps.
Despite this, the company is launching its first 1000 robots in safer locations. At the moment, Alibaba is keeping the delivery robots in housing estates and university campuses, far away from main roads.
Robots don't smoke
Cutting down on human confusion isn't the sole reason behind the Alibaba delivery robots. The Chinese tech giant is hoping to cut down on a significant amount of time humans spend on smoke breaks.
The company states:
“Alibaba’s robots will be able to make the trip without deviations or smoke breaks. Alibaba’s algorithm plots the fastest route for the robot to your door.”