While autonomous vehicles have been in the news for a number of years, deployments have been few and far between. Neolix vehicles are already on the market and streets of China and it is looking to dramatically increase its scale. With a recent RMB 200 million, $29 million USD, investment as reported by VentureBeat the company plans to add capacity at its facility in Changzhou to produce as many as 10,000 vehicles a year.
The Neolix platform is targeted to delivery, retail, and security roles rather than transport. The vehicles have been engineered to operate for a full day using a hot-swappable battery system that enables a 100km, 60 mile, range at speeds up to 50km/hr, 30mph.
At last reporting, Neolix had sold 225 vehicles to date and hopes to deliver 1000 this year. The company doesn’t operate the vehicles themself but offers a cloud platform that allows owners to remote operate their fleet and take control of a vehicle if it encounters a situation it can’t handle on its own.
Neolix’s vehicle promises Level 4 autonomy meaning that it can operate on its own in most situations but can switch to a remote driver if the need arrives. Using LIDAR sensors from Velodyne, the vehicle can map its surrounding to a cm accuracy.
The company projects that customers could earn enough revenue within a year to recover purchase costs. The company is seeing current deployments of a single vehicle selling souvenirs, snacks, and beverages in the Xiong’an New Area averages more than RMB 2,000, around $300 USD per day. In its configuration as a mobile convenience store, customers can hail the passing vehicle and pay for the merchandise with their phone. The vehicles can also be configured for parcel-delivery and security roles.
With the current pandemic, the technology offers a promising business case opening an opportunity to restructure the operation of cities.