Panasonic is testing Japan’s response to its first supply robots

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Panasonic tests an autonomous delivery robot in Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, the six year old urban development initiative in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The first phase of the experiment focused on testing a self-driving robot on public roads. It started last month and will last through the end of the year. In the second phase, which begins in February 2021, the robot will deliver home deliveries to the residents of the region. The aim is to “test the acceptance of the new delivery service experience”.

The robot runs independently and can avoid most obstacles. However, it is remotely monitored by a control center operator who can take control if necessary. It will travel at a speed of up to four kilometers per hour.

“By offering a new form of delivery service with robots that work closely with people, [we aim] to help create a vibrant community where people and mobility coexist, ”Panasonic said in a statement.

The company said the pandemic had accelerated the initiative as more people order groceries and goods online for delivery and require contactless options.

According to Panasonic, “There has been a serious shortage of home delivery personnel to support such services.” This has not been the case everywhere in the world, although, as in many countries, COVID-induced unemployment has seen strong competition for delivery work. It’s early, but there are wider ones too To care that autonomous robots could eventually start devouring human jobs.

In Japan, testing autonomous vehicles, including delivery robots, on public roads requires approval from the local police.

[Read: Meet the 4 scale-ups using data to save the planet]

National strategy

The trials are based on Japan Growth Strategy Action Plan published in July 2020 calling on robot delivery pilots to inform policy-making for wider adoption.

Panasonic participates in a public-private council to promote deliveries by autonomous robots, sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A portion of the company’s research and development and field testing activities are also supported by a government technology development project to accelerate the deployment of autonomous delivery technologies.

In October, Japan Post Co. started public road tests with self-driving delivery robots in Tokyo.

Elsewhere is Starship Technologies To run Robotic deliveries with the Co-op supermarket in two UK cities with the aim of expanding the service over the next year. In July, Amazon announced trials of its Scout electric, autonomous parcel delivery robots in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee, to expand services in Snohomish County, Washington and Irvine, California.

San Francisco, a pioneer in providing robotic delivery, adopted regulations to regulate the use of delivery robots in 2017 following complaints from some residents. The city has since set up an emerging technology bureau To work earlier with companies that want to provide potentially disruptive new systems and products.

In other robot applications during the pandemic, Singapore piloted a four-legged, canine-like robot called Spot to Promote social distancing in parks, and Seoul uses small humanoid robots to train seniors in digital skills.

Smart city

Panasonic has been working in Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town since it opened in 2014. The development, which is home to over 2,000 people, is located on the site of a former Panasonic factory in Fujisawa. It brings together 18 public and private organizations, including Panasonic and Fujisawa City. The community aims to serve as a model for community-based sustainable development, showing how technology can address urban challenges in terms of energy, security, mobility and health.

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Published on January 6, 2021 – 09:00 UTC

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