Alibaba says its recently launched army of delivery robots can outperform their human counterparts because they don’t stop for “smoke breaks”.
The Chinese ecommerce giant recently deployed 1000 automated delivery robots in a trial programme across a number of university campuses and housing estates, The Register reported.
In a thinly veiled dig at its human delivery workforce, the retailer said in a blog post that “Alibaba’s robots will be able to make the trip without deviations or smoke breaks”.
It added: “Last-mile delivery has always been the knotty problem of e-commerce. It’s costly, time-consuming and largely unmapped.
“This final leg in a journey that stretches from the manufacturer to the buyer can flummox human couriers. Delivery people can get lost trying to find a flat in a tower block or navigate a large housing estate.”
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Its automated delivery bots can reportedly predict the next 10 seconds of movement of pedestrians and vehicles, enabling it to avoid 99.999 per cent of collisions.
They will be able to collect parcels at local drop-off points then navigate footpaths and bike lanes to reach the buyers location.
Just like in the UK, demand for delivery drivers has skyrocketed during lockdown in China, while the dominance of large tech companies like Alibaba has also grown exponentially.
This combination has enabled delivery platforms to push workers to take on more jobs for less pay, according to analysts.
This resulted in one former Alibaba delivery driver setting himself on fire in protest of unpaid wages in January this year.
Liu Jin, 45, had worked for Alibaba’s food delivery platform Ele.me throughout the country’s coronavirus lockdowns, but had recently signed up to work with rival delivery group Meituan, according to the Financial Times.
Upon trying to resign, Lui experienced a pay dispute with Ele.me’s local partner in charge of drivers and decided to set himself on fire in protest.