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Drones, robots and self-driving vans will soon deliver your packages in this Chinese city

Chinese online retailer JD.com will launch its autonomous delivery vehicles in the streets of Tianjin, a metropolis in northern China.

The company expects to begin delivering orders using these vehicles before its anniversary on June 18 this year. While JD.com has previously tested these self-driving delivery vehicles in enclosed areas, such as university campuses and its headquarters in Beijing, this is the first time they will be seen in the streets along with road and pedestrian traffic.

The company has also launched a new project with support from the local government in Tianjin, and will be using its big data, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to play a part in the metropolis’ smart city initiative.

JD.com will research, manufacture and test its smart logistics technologies, including robots, drones and autonomous delivery vehicles, in Tianjin as part of the new project.

The company said it will also invest billions of yuan – adding to a pool of funds from the local government – to finance start-ups in robotics, AI, smart manufacturing, smart cities and smart ports.

JD.com has also launched two unstaffed convenience stores in the city, after opening one in Yantai in Shandong province and one at Sunrise Shopping Centre in Dalian in Liaoning province.

The company expects to open about 100 unstaffed stores this year, and is also planning to open its first overseas store.

The Beijing-based company, founded by Chinese internet entrepreneur Richard Liu Qiandong, has been investing heavily in autonomous delivery vehicles in different parts of China.

In December, the company said it would invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) in a project in Changsha, an equipment manufacturing hub in China’s Hunan province.

Elsewhere, JD.com recently introduced its own branded products ranging from suitcases to bath towels, putting it in direct competition with manufacturers that sell their products through its platform. The brand, called Jing Zao, translates to “Made by JD” and offers 38 products.

The online retailer also unveiled plans to invest more than 20 billion yuan in northeast China over the next three years to help the region “upgrade its industries, create jobs, inject innovation and upgrade retail services”.

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