China Driverless Van Startup Sees Demand Surge Amid Virus Outbreak

The coronavirus has hurt many companies in China and around the world. Neolix, a driverless delivery business based in Beijing, is not among them -- in fact, it’s seen a jump in demand.

The startup, which has attracted customers including Alibaba Group Holding, Meituan Dianping and JD.Com, has booked orders for more than 200 vehicles in the past two months; before then, it had only produced 125 units since manufacturing began last May, founder Yu Enyuan said in an interview.

Amid the virus anxiety that has disrupted businesses and supply chains, China’s push into autonomous transport and the future of delivery is getting an unexpected boost. Neolix’s small vans help customers reduce physical contact and address labour shortages caused by lingering quarantines and travel restrictions.

Neolix’s inventories have been depleted during the epidemic with its vehicles being used to deliver medical supplies in hospitals, including in Wuhan, at the outbreak’s epicenter. Its vans are also being used to help disinfect streets and move food to people who are working on the front lines to curb the spread of the virus, Yu said.

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