Japan Post Co. unveiled Wednesday a self-driving mail delivery robot as demand grows for minimizing human contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Using built-in cameras and sensors, the robot — which is the size of a wheelchair — operated on a sidewalk in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, dodging obstacles such as utility poles, and crossed an intersection with traffic lights.
The robot is in the middle of a series of test runs that began on Sept. 18 and runs through late October. One of the tests involves the robot traveling 700 meters from a convenience store in a hospital to a local post office in about 25 minutes.
The red DeliRo robot developed by ZMP Inc. is capable of carrying packages weighing up to 30 kilograms at a speed of 6 kilometers per hour, according to Japan Post, which aims to put the self-driving delivery robots into practical use in fiscal 2021.
Based on the test results, the government will discuss easing regulations on autonomous delivery robots, which are currently not allowed to run on sidewalks or public roads without human monitoring. The test run of the DeliRo was realized after Japan Post registered the robot with police as a vehicle.
Japan is stepping up its push for autonomous delivery services in the hope they will alleviate the acute labor shortage in the aging country.
In the United States, automated robots are being used to make house deliveries of things such as medicine and groceries.