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JD.com launches delivery robots in Chinese province

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com Inc. has rolled out 20 artificial intelligence-equipped home-delivery vehicles that can deliver items to customers' homes, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Dec. 17.

The fleet of four-wheeled delivery vehicles was launched in Changsha in China's Hunan Province at the end of November and the logistics base reportedly can handle up to 2,000 packages a day.

The robots can travel as far as 5 kilometers away from their base at a speed of up to 20 kilometers per hour, according to the report.

The unmanned delivery robot features 22 compartments that can store customers' packages, the Nikkei reported. Customers can scan their faces through the robot's cameras and sensors to claim their packages.

JD.com has spent more than a year ramping up AI capabilities across its global operations. In September 2017, the company started testing its fully automated sorting center in eastern China. In January, the company launched unmanned delivery vehicles in the city of Tianjin in China to support its AI logistics plan.

The e-commerce company operates about 500 automated distribution sites largely run by robots, according to the report.

The launch of autonomous delivery vehicles in Changsha follows JD.com's first transport of crabs by drone in September, more than a year after the company announced its plan to establish a low-altitude drone logistics network in the Chinese province of Shaanxi.

The move comes amid increasing pressure from rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which plans to invest at least 100 billion yuan to boost its logistics operations, the Nikkei reported.

As of Dec. 14, US$1 was equivalent to 6.91 Chinese yuan.