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Uber launches self-driving robots in Japan

AFP – In collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric and Cartken, Uber is introducing an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven autonomous robot delivery system in Japan.

Beginning next month, the service will launch in specific zones of Tokyo before expanding citywide. This marks the second country, following the US, where Uber Eats will deploy such technology.

The robots, constructed by Cartken, will be overseen by Mitsubishi Electric staff who can remotely monitor operations to ensure seamless performance.

These self-driving robots will use advanced AI models and algorithms that have been specially adapted to Japanese traffic rules. As required by local legislation, their speed will never exceed 5.4 km/h.

Uber also assures that the privacy of passers-by will be respected with a “masking” technology that means they will not be identifiable. As for delivery, the robot will have a 27-liter cargo space that can hold up to 20kg of food, kept at the right temperature throughout the duration of the delivery.

Uber Eats is adding this solution to its other, more traditional modes of delivery by bicycle, motorcycle or on foot. And while these autonomous robots won’t roll out across the country overnight, one driving factor behind adopting such a solution is alleviating a labour shortage at a time when orders are at an all-time high.

This is the first time that the partnership between Uber Eats and Cartken has been exported, following successful experiments in several American cities, from Los Angeles to Miami. Robot deliveries are also already taking place on some American university campuses, thanks to Starship, another small autonomous American robot.

Uber Eats is set to launch a self-driving robot delivery service in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP