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July 9, 2020

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Driverless vending-machine vehicles deliver food

When heavy rains delay food delivery and force street vendors to wind up their business, several autonomous vending-machine vehicles move freely in the Zhangjiang High Technology Park, selling breakfast combos, box lunches and afternoon coffee.

The vehicles were launched by technology firm Neolix last month after the company was incubated nearly one year ago at the Zhangjiang AIsland, an emerging hub for the AI industry.

Zhangjiang is every AI firm’s dreamland to pioneer cutting-edge technologies and new applications, Neolix co-founder Ren Beini said.

Neolix’s vehicles, equipped with cameras and radar detectors, start the day’s business as a breakfast stand outside a nearby Metro station. By scanning the QR code, people can buy a traditional breakfast combo of two steamed buns and a cup of hot soy milk for just 4.9 yuan (70 US cents).

“During a trial operation in late June, our vehicle sold out the products within half an hour despite the downpour,” Ren revealed.

Then, they return to their home at the AIsland for a short break.

At lunchtime, they hit the road again. Carrying box lunches, they stop outside office buildings to offer safe, delicious and cheap meals to local workers. In the afternoon, they turn into mobile beverage stands and move around. Like hailing a taxi, people just have to wave and the vehicles stop nearby to sell a variety of drinks.

“We hope to help food brands get closer to customers, and also offer convenience to local workers,” Ren said. “But our vehicles are more than deliverymen. As smart robots, they can also take body temperatures of passersby, disinfect the area and patrol around.”


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