AI-Powered Meal Delivery Debuts In China

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Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered food carts have begun delivering lunch to office workers in Beijing, courtesy of Chinese eCommerce shopping giant Meituan-Dianping.

The company recently began a trial run for its new AI food and meal delivery service, with orders arriving on average 17 minutes after they were placed, Pandaily reports.

Meituan debuted the new service on National Day, which commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China, at Shougang Park, a closed business park.

In efforts to make an even bigger splash internationally, Meituan also plans to use the robotic delivery vehicles in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The food carts are just one part of an AI-powered, brick-and-mortar store that Meituan has opened in Beijing, where orders are fielded and packed into the AI delivery vehicles.

Huang Zhuxi, an analyst studying unmanned vehicles at the 36Kr Venture Capital Research Institute, told Pandaily that the new AI-powered meal delivery vehicles could boost efficiency.

But the pilot program, which is taking place in a closed business park, is still some ways off from an automated delivery service that could navigate and perform amid crowded city streets, he cautioned.

“It will have a positive impact on Meituan’s own business, such as improving the efficiency of food delivery and reducing labor costs in a closed park,” Zhuxi told the news site. “This new model pilot is ultimately to increase its technical barriers in the industry.”

Behind the deliveries by automated meal and delivery carts is an AI-powered retail infrastructure. This includes “an unmanned warehouse and unmanned distribution with AI technology and robots,” Pandaily reports, adding that some takeout personnel is on hand to help out as needed.

Other Chinese tech giants are also getting into the AI delivery business, including Alibaba and JD Logistics, according to Pandaily.

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