Autonomous vehicles are regarded by many as a potential solution to the “last mile” problem in the supply chain and logistics industry. In the US, a number of consumer goods companies (including grocery giants Kroger and Walmart), are partnering with auto manufacturers and start-ups in an effort to develop a driverless delivery platform. Similarly in China, delivery giants including Shentong and Yunda are investing heavily in R&D to launch their own self-driving delivery vehicle products. However, Chinese start-up Neolix claims to be the company to beat after it recently began mass production of its Level 4 self-driving delivery vehicle line in Changzhou.
Founded in 2009, Neolix entered the field of self-driving delivery vehicles in 2015. It is one of Baidu’s strategic partners, and it counts Chinese tech giants JD.com and Huawei among its customers.
As the first partner to join the Meituan Self-Driving Delivery Development Platform, Neolix’s first-generation products have been put into operation in environments such as Beijing’s Chaoyang Park and the Shougang Winter Olympics Park for purposes including sanitation, transportation, retail sales and security.
Mass Production and Operation
Neolix’s factory based in Changzhou has a total construction area of 13,600 square meters with an annual production capacity of more than 30,000 vehicles. Neolix estimates that a car can be made ready for market every 300 seconds, and estimates annual sales of 100,000 vehicles within 5 years.
Neolix’s second-generation self-driving delivery vehicle, the SLV11, has already hit the market and is being operated on public roads. It is reported that the SLV11 can adapt to various road and traffic environments including parks, industrial areas and campuses. With a body width of only one meter, it can easily pass down most roads, while its 2.4 cubic meter loading space is comparable to that of most deliver vans. The SLV11 is also equipped with an intelligent power exchange system, with a single cruising range of 100 km. Operation and maintenance personnel can reportedly change the power within 30 seconds without auxiliary tools, ensuring near 24-hour operation.
Neolix expects the introduction of the SLV11 to have a major impact on logistics. In the words of Yu Enyuan, founder and CEO of Neolix, “after the L4 self-driving vehicle production line was put into production, it will have a significant impact on the domestic 5 km radius of logistics.”
That may well be the case. The final radius for domestic deliveries is generally seen as well suited to driverless vehicles; typically being a low-speed environment with relatively low security risks.
It is clear from the significant levels of investment being made into this space that auto manufacturers, consumer goods and logistics companies across the globe are all alive to the opportunity presented by the driverless delivery vehicle market. This latest development is likely to further accelerate the race to develop a fully driverless delivery system.