Uber Eats’ self-driving delivery robots hit Japan

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Uber is launching an artificial intelligence-based autonomous robot delivery service in Japan, in partnership with Mitsubishi Electric and Cartken. The alliance plans to put the new service into operation starting next month, initially in selected areas of Tokyo, before gradually rolling out to cover the entire city.

Japan is the second country, after the US, where Uber Eats will offer this type of service. The robots will be built by American company Cartken and operated by Mitsubishi Electric, whose employees will be able to monitor them remotely to ensure all goes smoothly.

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. – AFP Relaxnews

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