Interview with Zeng Wenda, Senior Architect of Automatic Driving at Neolix
Neolix, headquartered in Beijing, China, is among the trailblazers in the autonomous vehicle industry. The company has more than ten years of experience in developing intelligent hardware for the logistics industry, starting with the first generation of intelligent mobile devices (PDAs) to now providing autonomous delivery vehicles.
Neolix Founder and CEO Yu Enyuan describes his company’s unmanned vehicle as “a computer on four wheels.” To date, Neolix has produced more than 150 unmanned vehicles, which have collectively driven more than 500,000 kilometers.
The company plans to deploy more than 1,000 unmanned vehicles for commercial delivery by the end of this year. To support this goal, Neolix opened a factory, the world’s first L4 unmanned vehicle production line, in Changzhou, China.
To learn more about Neolix’s plans, we interviewed the company’s Senior Architect of Automatic Driving, Zeng Wenda.
VL: How is Neolix working to bring autonomous vehicles to market?
Zeng Wenda: Neolix is committed to producing computers for unmanned vehicles. We envision the self-driving function will eventually become a basic vehicle function, just as making a call is a core function of mobile phones. In the future, the delivery logistics industry will be dominated by an unmanned platform featuring an intelligent cargo compartment along with an AI system for the Internet of Vehicles. Neolix will strictly follow the theory of “maximum density markets” while continuously exploring vigorous development.
We are also focused on mobile retail. For example, our unmanned vehicles have been deployed in Citizen Service Center in Xiong’an New Area since August 2018. The daily revenue of a single vehicle selling souvenirs, snacks and beverages in the Xiong’an New Area averages more than RMB 2,000, with more than RMB 6,000 achieved during the National Day. Considering this, the cost of an unmanned vehicle can be recovered within a year. Now, Neolix has deployed our unmanned vehicles in Beijing Chaoyang Park, Park of International Horticultural Exhibition 2019, Waterfront Park, Shougang Winter Olympics Park, Fuzhou Feifeng Mountain Olympics Park and Xi’an Space City.
VL: Why did Neolix decide to focus on developing an autonomous short-distance delivery van to address the last five kilometers of logistics?
Zeng: Since our establishment, Neolix has aimed to put our unmanned vehicles into mass production and commercial application. We decided to focus on developing an autonomous short-distance delivery van to address the last five kilometers of logistics for two reasons. First, short-distance logistics is a large market, beyond the imagination of many. Second, commercial application is the greatest challenge facing autonomous driving. Therefore, we see a tremendous opportunity for deploying high volumes of unmanned vehicles to make short commercial deliveries in low-speed scenarios within the next three to five years.
VL: How have Velodyne lidar sensors performed in your unmanned vehicle deployments?
Zeng: Currently, we apply three Puck lidar sensors from Velodyne on our unmanned vehicles, mainly for obstacle detection and identification, trajectory prediction and point cloud localization. To date, these vehicles have been put into use in several parks, performing well as a whole. Velodyne’s sensors have been integral and reliable in our vehicle systems.
VL: Can you share some details about your unmanned vehicle production capabilities?
Zeng: With the total building area of 13,600 square meters, the Neolix Changzhou Intelligent Factory comprises two layers (each covers 5,860 square meters). It is the world’s first intelligent L4 unmanned vehicle production line. With the designed capacity of 12 jobs per hour (JPH), the production line is capable of producing an unmanned vehicle every 300 seconds, or more than 30,000 vehicles annually. Moreover, Neolix has also won orders for more than 200 vehicles and is looking at commercial delivery and deployment of more than 1,000 unmanned vehicles by the end of this year.
VL: What’s next for Neolix? Zeng: In the next stage, with more focus placed on mass delivery and product iteration, Neolix will develop more intelligent modules and optimize vehicle capabilities, further expanding the application scenarios and improving user experience