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Chinese Commercial Delivery Fleet Completes Autonomous Heavy-duty Truck Tests

25 May 2018
The Strolling Dragon autonomous truck that will be used to augment drivers. Source: Suning Logistics

Suning Logistics, a subsidiary of Chinese commercial vendor Suning Holdings Group, said it has completed driving tests of an autonomous heavy-duty truck, marking one step closer to the technology being put into operation without human drivers.

The Strolling Dragon automated fleet has a Level-4 class of self-driving capabilities, is highly automated and is able to operate without human input within pre-programmed parameters. The trucks are the first self-driving trucks to be developed by an e-commerce company to pass logistics campus tests and highway-scenario road tests in China, Suning said.

The trucks include artificial intelligence, deep-learning technologies and LiDAR allowing the vehicles to recognize obstacles at a distance of more than 300 meters. Suning said the truck can make emergency stops or avoid obstacles at a response rate of 25 milliseconds allowing for safe operation at driving speeds of 80 km/h.

The Strolling Dragon trucks are just one part of Suning’s strategy to develop fully-automated logistics solutions for delivery. Previously, the company launched automated vehicles that increased the time spent selecting items from shelves during a fulfillment process. Earlier this year, Suning rolled out a line of autonomous delivery robots, called Biu, that work all day delivering goods directly to customers.

Currently some automotive OEMs — such as Daimler and Tesla — are working on automated trucks of their own, however, Suning claimed its self-driving trucks are closer to commercialization because of less complicated working environments as well as the trucks spending most of the time on highways.

While there has been much talk about robots replacing the jobs that humans currently perform, Suning said its plans call for drivers to be assisted rather than replaced. Because long distance driving puts drivers at high risk of accidents or poor performance, automation would help reduce such risk. With 100,000 truck drivers currently employed by the company, the goal of the technology is to provide a more comfortable and safer working environment for these employees while at the same time accelerating the logistics process, Suning said.

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