Self-driving delivery vehicles put into operation in China

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.

About Neolix

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.

The future

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.

Nanda Lau
Nanda Lau
Partner, Shanghai
+86 21 2322 2117
James Gong
James Gong
Senior Associate, Beijing
+86 10 6535 5106
Weili Zhong
Weili Zhong
Associate, Beijing
+86 10 6535 5105

China releases first autonomous vehicle road testing report

Beijing recently issued the “Beijing Autonomous Vehicle Road Testing Report 2018”; the first report on autonomous vehicle road testing in China. The Report releases information and data derived from road tests by 56 cars from eight companies (Baidu, NIO, BAIC BJEV, Daimler, Pony.ai, Tencent, Audi, and Didi Chuxing) in both enclosed areas and open roads in Beijing during 2018.

In this short blog post we consider the information that is, and is not, included in the Report.

  • Beijing keeps expending its testing areas

According to the Report (available here), Beijing has opened 44 roads in 4 districts with a total distance of 123 km for autonomous vehicle testing since February 2018 and is the leading city in China. Beijing has built and opened the first V2X reversible testing road with a distance of 12 km, combining traffic light systems, intellectual sensor systems and connected autonomous vehicles to provide an integrated testing environment. And it is planned that autonomous vehicle testing areas in Beijing will expand to 500 km2, which includes open roads covering more than 2,000 km in 2022.

  • Baidu tops industry peers in road testing

In the Report, which includes results from 8 companies, Baidu tops industry peers with the most test license plates (45), the most test vehicles on road (45), the longest distance driven (140,000 km), and the most diverse test scenarios.

  • No disengagement data

The Report includes two categories of test data: the number of test cars and the distance travelled by those cars.  Significantly, no data is provided regarding disengagement. ‘Disengagement’ includes situations in which a self-driving vehicle’s systems are unable to process current conditions, forcing it to pass control back to the human driver, and also where a human manually retakes the wheel or overrides a car’s decision also count as disengagements.

This decision is interesting for two reasons.  First, this data is available; all disengagement data is required to be reported to an authorized third-party institution (i.e. the Beijing Innovation Centre for Intelligent Mobility) on a monthly basis.

Second, the absence of this data means that it is not possible to calculate the “miles per disengagement” (MPD) achieved by each company (ie. the distance travelled by the automated system before human intervention was required).  This metric is considered by many commentators to be a more measure of safety than distance travelled alone.  Notably, disengagement data is included in the annual reports published by the Californian Department for Motor Vehicles.

It will be interesting to see whether this data is included in subsequent reports.

  • Categories of disengagement

Although no technical data is provided regarding disengagement, the Report does identify four categories of disengagement that have occurred during the testing:

  • system failure caused by sensor failure, map loading anomaly, positioning deviation, system delay anomaly, data logging device failure;
  • strategic deviancies caused by obstacle identification errors, social vehicle behavior prediction errors, path planning errors, vehicle stagnation;
  • expected take-over caused by vehicles illegally occupying lanes, non-motorized roads and construction; and
  • manual take-over caused by engineers changing equipment, engineers re-calculating path.

This Report provides a unique insight into the testing of autonomous vehicles in Beijing since testing regulations were first published in December 2017.  While it is regrettable that not all available information is included, the Report nevertheless provides interesting information relating to the testing and evaluation equipment scenarios, roads, and more importantly the problems encountered by the testing companies, including reasons for disengagement.  We would look forward to seeing more reports being released by other cities in China where testing is taking place.

 

Nanda Lau
Nanda Lau
Partner, Shanghai
+86 21 2322 2117
James Gong
James Gong
Senior Associate, Beijing
+86 10 6535 5106
James Allsop
James Allsop
Senior Associate, Tokyo
+81 3 5412 5409

CHINA AUTONOMOUS DRIVING: ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST ROAD TESTING RULES RELEASED IN BEIJING

On 18 December 2017, the first road testing regulations for autonomous driving vehicles (ADVs) in China were released in Beijing (Beijing Regulations). The Beijing Regulations have been issued jointly by the departments responsible for transport, traffic police and industry in Beijing (Beijing Authorities). In the absence of nationwide regulations, the Beijing Regulations mark the first step taken by the government to permit and regulate road testing activities for ADVs in China. Although the Beijing Regulations have been implemented on a trial basis, they are set to influence the drafting of road testing regulations by local governments outside Beijing and, potentially, nationwide.

In this article, we set out the current legal environment for ADV road testing and highlight the key points that companies should pay attention to in respect of the Beijing Regulations.

Read more