Online shopping mall Rakuten and supermarket chain Seiyu have agreed to road test autonomous delivery robots service, in collaboration with JD.com.
Delivering goods using the Rakuten UGV
The autonomous delivery robots service is to be tested from September 21 to October 27.
Using the Rakuten Drone app, shoppers can place their orders from the Seiyu Livin Yokosuka Store and have the goods delivered by the Rakuten UGV (unmanned ground vehicle).
Earlier this year, JD.com and Rakuten signed a partnership to develop unmanned delivery solutions, one of which was drone delivery service on Sarushima Island in Tokyo Bay.
Growing demand for delivery robots in Japan
Japan’s logistics sector, under pressure from burgeoning online sales, is experience a shortage in labour.
The number of deliveries hit 4.25 billion in fiscal 2017, up 5.8% from the previous year and the third annual increase in a row, according to transport ministry data. At the same time, percentage of working age population (aged 15 to 64) was down by 0.28 percentage points in 2019 when compared with 2018.
Retailers, logistics companies and robot makers in Japan are increasingly looking into innovative last-mile delivery systems to accommodate this shift.
Legal restrictions might hinder deployment
As Japan’s current traffic law does not cover technologies such as unmanned ground vehicle, a full deployment will be on hold until new rules and safety measures are introduced.
The government has responded to this by making plans to open up public roads for trials of unmanned delivery robots before fiscal 2019 ends in April 2020.
Other delivery robots around the world
- China: JD.com’s delivery robots in use in parts of China.
- UK: U.S. based Starship Technologies is providing an unlimited delivery service using autonomous robots in Milton Keynes.
- US: Starship also kicked off food delivery at two universities in the United States and now has plans to expand the service to 100 more college campuses with another fleet of robots.
- US: Amazon.com is testing a delivery robot dubbed “Scout” in Snohomish County, Washington.
- US: FedEx Corp. has launched the FedEx SameDay Bot, dubbed “Roxo,” to help retailers make same-day and last-mile parcel deliveries.
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