Apr 14, 2020|

JD’s Head of Autonomous Driving on Hardware, Data and Algorithm


by Martin Li


Qi Kong, Chief Scientist and Head of Autonomous Driving at JD Logistics, was invited to share the role that autonomous driving technology plays in the fight against viruses like COVID-19 at a press conference organized by the Beijing Municipal Government on April 13th.

“The virus has demonstrated the advantages of autonomous driving technology like unmanned delivery robots and unmanned airplanes in reducing human contact and easing labor shortages,” Kong said at the press conference.

Information office of beijing Municipality Meeting

Regarding unmanned delivery, Kong pointed out three outstanding challenges: consistent and stable hardware, rich data for road scenarios and algorithm upgrades, and regional commercial mode trials.

It took only three days for JD to deploy a robot on the streets of Wuhan to deliver medical supplies in February. On Feb.5th, the robot completed its first delivery from JD’s Renhe Delivery station to Wuhan No.9 Hospital. In addition to delivering medical supplies, the robot also delivered goods to residential communities located along the same route.

Qi Kong, Chief Scientist and Head of Autonomous Driving at JD Logistics.

Qi Kong, Chief Scientist and Head of Autonomous Driving at JD Logistics.

“The programming and maintenance of the robots deployed in Wuhan were handled by our team in Beijing. We simply provided the local couriers with ones that were already programmed well,” added Kong.

The robots have been deployed successfully in Wuhan for over two months now.

“The fight against COVID-19 provides us a chance to deploy unmanned delivery technology. We notice recent growth in the number of orders delivered by robots in Wuhan, which reflects gradual resumption of daily life,” he said.

Kong also shared his personal perspective on the commercial use of autonomous driving technology.

“First, the real commercialization and scalability of autonomous driving can only be achieved without needing to be operated manually. Second, the future application of autonomous driving at a large scale has to be managed and deployed on a Cloud-based platform. Third, ensuring the technology is open and multi-stakeholder collaboration is crucial to the development of the entire industry,” Kong advocated.

In addition to delivery robots, JD flew two drones to spray disinfectant in the High-Tech Industrial Development Zone of Ordos City, an important industrial city of Inner Mongolia, China on February 16th.

The city of Beijing has been holding this press conference on a regular basis to brief the public on virus prevention and control as well as to answer media questions.