Kanji Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun, JAPAN Foward

The Japanese government is set to green-light robot delivery services using public roads, with the aim of starting operations in 2021.

This was revealed at the technology event ZMP World 2020 held in Tokyo on August 18.

In May this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized at a meeting of Council on Investments for the Future, “Remotely monitored and remotely controlled delivery robots that are small and low-speed will be tested on public roads later this year.”

A senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry added that the government “wants operators to start running services in fiscal 2021,” taking into account the need to speed up COVID-19 countermeasures.

The government expects to complete its basic policy and necessary legislation on the futuristic services by the spring of 2021.

Why and How?

Demand for delivery services without humans has increased due to COVID-19. As the United States and China have introduced such services, the Japanese government has decided to shift gears and make the concept a reality in Japan too.

Labor shortages in Japan have also led to the idea of automated robot delivery services being taken seriously. Japan’s economy would certainly benefit if the delivery industry is boosted by the use of robots.

Under approved demonstration projects, some robots will be monitored remotely using computers, while other robots will be accompanied by humans to ensure safety. For those with human companions, the National Police Agency has clarified the necessary procedures for gaining permission to use the roads. Regarding the remotely monitored robots, the government has said it will set up a system that would enable operators to obtain permits.

Remotely-monitored robots will be tested for the first time in wintertime experiments. The participating firms are yet to be decided, but the government’s public-private council for these services has named candidates, such as Japan Post, Yamato Transport, Rakuten, SoftBank, Panasonic, Honda, and the automated-driving venture firm ZMP, based in Tokyo.


By - Ben K.