BEIJING, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Chinese internet giant Meituan has unveiled a platform to promote autonomous delivery services by leveraging partnerships along the industrial chain.
The interactive platform will provide certain technologies and resources to delivery market players, aiming to build the world's biggest cooperative ecosystem to nurture the development of autonomous delivery technologies and applications.
About 20 partners including universities, enterprises and industrial institutions have joined the platform, according to a statement from the company.
Meituan also rolled out its latest driverless delivery vehicle as well as a drone for delivery purposes.
The online food delivery-to-ticketing services provider piloted unmanned delivery services in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen in the first half of this year. The company receives over 1,000 daily orders for its autonomous food delivery services in one of Shanghai's university districts.
The company expects their autonomous delivery vehicles to first appear on public roads by the end of this year and will expand its service areas in 2019.
Autonomous delivery vehicles will not replace delivery staff for quite some time as both have their unique advantages, according to Xia Huaxia, who is in charge of Meituan's driverless delivery.
Unmanned delivery vehicles can serve during the night while delivery staff can handle more complicated orders, Xia said.
China's delivery market has been expanding fast in recent years as more and more consumers tend to use smartphones to order food, clothes, and other items to save time, boosting the development of high-tech delivery technologies to improve efficiency and reduce cost.
As the country's largest on-demand delivery service provider, Meituan serves about 320 million active users nationwide by working with over four million merchants. The company merged with catering service review platform Dianping in 2015, and the new firm is seeking an IPO in Hong Kong.