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Rakuten delivery robot demoed on public roads for 1st time in east Japan

Rakuten's delivery robot is seen in front of an outlet of supermarket chain Seiyu in the city of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Dec. 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Michinaga)

YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa -- A Rakuten Inc. robot that can fulfill product deliveries has had its operations demonstrated to the press in a trial run held on the streets of this city south of Tokyo on Dec. 23.

    Previously, the unit had only been tested on private property, making the showcase the service's first time being trialed on public roads. Rakuten intends to use the test results to start the service in the first half of 2021.

    The trial started at the Mabori branch of supermarket chain Seiyu, from which the robot zipped around an adjacent residential area. The unit, which is fitted with a motorbike license plate, traveled smoothly along the left-hand side of a 6-meter-wide road at a speed of about 4 kilometers per hour and carried its cargo to the front of a house marked as its destination. A member of the testing team then used a passcode set ahead of the robot's arrival to unlock its storage section and remove the goods from inside, which has capacity for four shopping basketfuls of products.

    The robot was remotely monitored and operated from a distance of about 5 kilometers away, and was also seen stopping temporarily on the day when a car approached it. The unit's emergency stop capabilities were also demonstrated, as seen when its built-in sensors reacted to a person who suddenly stepped out in front of it.

    Rakuten plans to start the service in the area for a limited time after it has used the trial data to take into account details for its practical use.

    (Japanese original by Tatsuya Michinaga, Business News Department)

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