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Uber Eats is launching robot deliveries in Japan

By Catherine Thorbecke, CNN

(CNN) — Uber Eats customers in Japan can soon have an autonomous robot deliver their food on the streets of Tokyo.

Uber announced a partnership Tuesday between robotics firm Cartken and Japanese industrial titan Mitsubishi Electric to launch autonomous sidewalk robots that will start delivering Eats orders in parts of Tokyo beginning next month.

Japan will be the first international market to have autonomous delivery available on the Uber Eats platform. Japan, however, is no stranger to embracing robot helpers in the hospitality industry, and many popular restaurant chains have been using robot servers for years now.

Cartken’s Model C robots will be delivering the food and navigating the sidewalks of Tokyo, and the operations will be supervised by Mitsubishi Electric as part of the partnership.

Cartken’s Model C robots use AI and computer vision technologies to navigate their environments.

The sidewalk-traversing robots are designed to avoid obstacles, yield to pedestrians, and stop at traffic lights. They travel at roughly the same speed as a walking adult and are fitted with a cargo bin that is designed to keep food at an appropriate temperature during transport.

Uber Eats and Cartken first partnered to launch autonomous robot delivery services in parts of Miami in 2022, and expanded robot delivery to Fairfax, Virginia, last year.

Japan, which was recently unseated by Germany as the world’s third largest economy, has been contending with an aging population and shrinking workforce for years now that has put an outsized strain on its logistics infrastructure.

Shoji Tanaka, the senior general manager of the Advanced Application Development Center, Development Division at Mitsubishi Electric said in a statement that robot delivery services “is considered to be an effective countermeasure to the logistics crisis that will become more serious in the future.”

Tanaka said Mitsubishi has been working with Cartken to “respond to such social issues.”

“We hope that this newly announced initiative will serve as a catalyst for the spread of robot delivery services in Japan,” Tanaka added. “In the future, we will work with buildings and factory infrastructure, which is one of our strengths, so autonomous robots will be able to deliver inside various facilities.”

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