中国有众多的卡车在广袤的国土上运送货物，而在连接到 G7 车队管理网络之后，它们将能做到更多。
G7 的总部设在北京，他们的目标是把从仓库到交付的整个物流过程中的所有步骤都数字化与可视化。据 G7 创始人翟学魂介绍，新冠疫情迫使人们待在家中，随之网上购物激增。包括联邦快递、亚马逊、中国邮政和沃尔玛在内的许多客户对于卡车安全和货物追踪空前关注，因此也带来更多机遇。
据 Bloomberg Intelligence 分析师 James Teo 称，中国 2019 年的物流总费用约占该年 GDP 的 15%，而欧洲和美国的这一数字只有个位数，这一差异凸显出中国降低物流成本的必要性。
成立于 2010 年的 G7，名字取自世界上最长的沙漠高速公路 G7 （北京-乌鲁木齐）。G7 利用物联网技术采集卡车司机在驾驶过程中使用手机的次数、停车加油的次数，并大力推广线上结算方式，促进物流行业降本增效、改善安全行驶状况。
据 G7 首席财务官张杰龙介绍，G7 已经吸引到包括淡马锡和腾讯在内的投资者，目前正在制定新一轮融资计划，并且可能会考虑进行上市 IPO 。张杰龙表示，公司上一轮融资是在 2018 年，当时估值达 12 亿美元。
屏幕显示的是 G7 车队管理网络所连车辆的实时数据。摄影师：Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg
投资者，尤其是中国投资者，希望布局未来技术领域的需求正在上升。本月早些时候有知情人士表示，软银旗下的远景基金 Vision Fund 2 正在牵头对美国加利福尼亚州一家名为 Flock Freight 的初创公司进行 1.135 亿美元的投资，这家公司的目标是改变美国国内卡车运输货物的方式。
G7 的其他支持者包括钟鼎资本、厚朴投资、中国银行等。CrunchBase 的信息表明，G7 已经过六轮融资，累计募集资金 5.1 亿美元。
「下一个十年，产业数字化程度将不断加深，」翟学魂表示。他所在的 G7 总部，铺满整面墙的屏幕，正显示着公司平台所连接的约 180 万台卡车的实时数据和图像。「物流车队的数字化和可视化管理，会是我们对行业做出的历史性贡献。」
Trucks in China connected to G7’s fleet-management network do more than just haul goods across the vast nation.
Using Internet of Things technology, they can employ anti-fatigue cameras to call out bad driving, built-in advanced driver-assistance systems to send warnings about insufficient space between vehicles on highways, and real-time cargo weighing to prevent stealing.
Beijing-based G7 aims to monitor all steps along a product’s logistics journey, from warehouse to delivery, remotely. Covid-19, which has seen a jump in online shopping as people stay home and avoid crowds, has presented an added opportunity, with customers including FedEx Corp., Amazon.com Inc., China Post and Walmart Inc. more focused than ever on security and tracing, according to G7 founder Zhai Xuehun.
It’s ultimately aimed at making logistics more efficient. Reducing the cost of transporting goods means higher margins for not only trucking companies but also manufacturers. Consumers benefit too through lower costs and products that arrive on time and in better shape.
Logistics costs in China accounted for around 15% of economic expansion in 2019, versus single digits in Europe and the U.S., a discrepancy that underscores the imperative for China to lower the expense, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst James Teo.
“Logistics demand in China is growing rapidly, driven by the fast growth of e-commerce,” Teo said. “The number of parcels that logistics companies have to handle is rising, so there’s a need to improve efficiency in order to lower unit costs.”
G7, which was founded in 2010 and takes its name from the G7 Beijing–Urumqi Expressway, the world’s longest desert highway, collects a plethora of other fleet information too, ranging from how many times drivers use their cellphones while on the road to how many times they stop to refill gas and what electronic payment methods they rely on.
Its technology can also provide real-time updates on a truck’s payload and temperature, helping to ensure goods that need to remain cold, for example, are delivered in optimum condition. Artificial intelligence is also used to help lower the rate of accidents by determining whether drivers are losing focus based on the frequency of their blinks. If the driver’s behavior fails to response to a buzz alert, service hotline staff will place a call urging them to take a rest.
“There’s never been so much emphasis put on China’s circulation industry since the country was established,” Ren Xingzhou, former head of the market-economy research unit under the Development Research Center of the State Council, said at a conference last month. “The efficiency of circulation and logistics directly impacts overall economic development.”
G7, which has already attracted backers including Temasek Holdings Pte and Tencent Holdings Ltd., is working on plans to start a new round of funding and may consider an initial public offering at some point, Chief Financial Officer Zhang Jielong said, declining to elaborate. The company’s last fundraising round was in 2018 when it raised money at $1.2 billion, Zhang said.
And demand from investors, particularly in China, to get in on the ground floor of the technologies that will power tomorrow is rising. SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund 2 is leading a $113.5 million investment round in a California-based startup called Flock Freight that seeks to change the way goods get trucked around the U.S., a person familiar said earlier this month.
Other G7 backers include Eastern Bell Venture Capital Management Co., Hopu Investment Management Co., Bank of China Ltd. and Tsinghua Holdings Venture Capital Co. The company has raised a total of $510 million over six rounds, according to Crunchbase.
“The next decade will bring an era of deepening digitalization,” Zhai said from G7’s headquarters, where a wall-sized screen displays real-time data and images of the some 1.8 million vehicles connected to the company’s platform. “The digital and visual management of logistic fleets will be our historic contribution to the industry.”
— With assistance by John Liu, and Ying Tian