Mail delivery robot makes test run on Tokyo road

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Japan Post C. conducts the first test run on a public road of a self-driving mail delivery robot in Tokyo on Wednesday, with an eye toward its practical use as early as fiscal 2021. Photo: KYODO

Japan Post Co unveiled to the press Wednesday a self-driving mail delivery robot, the first of its kind on a public road in Japan, 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 that sees it travel 700 meters from a convenience store in a hospital to a local post office in about 25 minutes.

The red-colored 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 posting vehicles into practical use in fiscal 2021.

Based on the test results, the Japanese government will discuss easing regulations on autonomous delivery robots, which are currently not allowed to run on 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 also stepping up its push for autonomous delivery services in the hope they will alleviate the acute shortage of labor in the rapidly aging country.

In the United States, automated robots are being used to make house deliveries of things such as medicines and groceries.

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