Chinese robovan startup aims to go from theme parks to city streets

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One of China's newest autonomous vehicle makers, Neolix, recently put self-driving microvans into action as it looks to scale up its solution to the country's logistics puzzle made more complex by a surge in online shopping. The Beijing-based startup, barely a year old, has already deployed the vehicles in the capital and other cities, but it faces stiff competition from a crowded field where other players, especially e-commerce groups, are racing to develop similar robovans. "Operating 10,000 units will be an industry milestone and it is crucial [for us] to achieve it," said Yu Enyuan, 45, Neolix's founder and chief executive. Neolix's ambition is to replace the roughly 40 million vehicles providing so-called last-mile logistics in China, a market projected to be 3 trillion yuan ($428 billion). These home deliveries are now handled mainly by two- and three-wheel electric motorbikes, zigzagging through neighborhoods to carry everything from milk tea to mattresses.