Baidu, who is China’s version of Google, has entered a partnership deal with California-based autonomous delivery start-up Udelv that will see self-driving vans powered providing delivery services to American retailers such as Walmart from February.
Baidu announced the deal with Udelv at a launch event for its latest open self-driving platform – Apollo 3.5 – at 2019 CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Apollo 3.5 will be used in Udelv’s new self-driving van model. Designed to address middle-range and last-mile delivery, the van can drive itself at up to 60 miles per hour and carry up to 32 customer orders per route.
Founded in 2016, Udelv has completed over 1,200 deliveries on public roads in the San Francisco Bay Area and has signed trial service deals with Houston-based auto repair chain XL Parts and Walmart. Walmart will likely be one of the first major US retailers to integrate autonomous deliveries into its customer service offering. The collaboration also points to the global nature of many new technologies and supply chains, at a time when US-China trade relations remain under stress.
Udelv, backed by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, expects to deploy up to 100 vans this year for merchant customers.
Baidu will have fleet of 100 robo-taxis in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, on 130 miles of city roads where cars can communicate with intelligent road infrastructure for autonomous driving.
In November, Baidu unveiled a jointly-developed self-driving passenger car model with state-owned FAW Group, with volume production expected in 2020, while a similar deal is under way with Volvo to develop level-four autonomous cars over next few years.