Alibaba has just announced a couple of tech innovations that hint at a future with even more delivery conveniences. The company showed off a driverless delivery robot that will help ship goods purchased online to customers more conveniently and a storage locker with facial recognition that promises to keep food warm.
The robot is called the G Plus, and it’s currently being road-tested at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, a major city located in eastern China. The G Plus robot can carry multiple packages of different sizes, and it has extended stamina to travel longer distances compared to its predecessors.
The G Plus’ loading box can change sizes depending on the package it needs to deliver, and Alibaba says the robot can also deliver fresh food. The robot has a built-in navigation system that relies on LIDAR to create a 3D map. If it senses that there are more people and cars nearby, it will reduce its speed to 6.2 miles per hour, to leave enough room for braking. For safety reasons, its max speed is 9.3 miles per hour.
Once the G Plus reaches the destination, it will automatically deposit its package or a customer can walk up, enter a PIN code, and retrieve the delivery. Alibaba expects the G Plus will begin commercial production by the end of this year.
In addition to more delivery robots and warehouse robots, Alibaba also revealed a Cainiao box, which customers can install right outside the door of their apartments. It’s a storage locker equipped with facial recognition that will only unlock for delivery people and customers.
Customers can also remotely control the temperature of the smart locker through a phone app so that delivered food can be kept warm or cool. In an ad for the new feature, Alibaba asks what would happen if a man is in the middle of some VR dancing and doesn’t want to run to the door for a delivery? The deliverer can simply leave the item securely in the locker. So far, the Cainiao box is only a concept and there’s no timetable for its release.