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Alibaba to build fleet of self-drive trucks with logistics spin-off Cainiao
Cheng Li, chief technology officer of Alibaba Group, speaks next to a Cainiao autonomous delivery robot at the Global Smart Logistics Summit organised by Alibaba's logistics arm Cainiao, in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Reuters

The e-commerce firm’s delivery arm is also aiming to introduce 1,000 autonomous delivery robots across China over the next year and help develop Hainan’s free trade zone ambitions


Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is to build a fleet of autonomous delivery trucks with its logistics arm, Cainiao.

The firm’s Chief Technology Officer Cheng Li made the announcement on Thursday also revealing Cainiao aims to introduce 1,000 autonomous delivery robots across China over the next year.

Dozens of start-ups, automakers and other large technology firms, such as internet search leader Baidu Inc, are also accelerating work on self-driving vehicle systems, which are widely expected to bring a sea change to the transportation industry.

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And Cainiao is also working on developing a supply chain pilot zone with the Hainan government, as the southern island province works on becoming a free-trade area.

As part of the partnership, the company will help build smart logistics infrastructure on Hainan’s main and outlying islands to attract more than 1,000 duty-free merchants.

The initiative will also involve building a smart service centre and global supply chain centre in Hainan, which Cainiao said will allow customers to complete a pick-up within 70 seconds at designated locations, half the time it currently takes.

Last June, Beijing announced plans to turn the tropical island, a popular holiday destination sometimes referred to as China’s Hawaii, into a free-trade port, similar to Hong Kong.


In the plan outlined by Beijing, the 35,000 sq km island would see income tax rates for select individuals and companies lowered to 15 per cent and relaxed visa requirements for tourists and business travellers.

The province, with a population of 9.5 million, will also enjoy loosened restrictions on trade, investment, capital flows and the movement of people and data by 2035, with the goal of gaining “strong international influence” by the middle of the century.

Cainiao also said it will help upgrade Hainan’s global freight network, with plans to expand to more than 800 international cargo flights by the end of 2021. The announcement comes two months after the company launched seven weekly charter flights between Singapore and Hainan.

Hainan’s offshore duty-free sales rose 416.6 per cent to 15.39 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) in the first quarter of this year, after growing 103.7 per cent for all of 2020 despite the disruption of cross-border travel from the pandemic, according to customs data.


  • With reporting by Reuters


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Sean OMeara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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