No tip required: Self-driving robots will now deliver Uber Eats orders in Tokyo – ET Auto


Representative image.

Uber Eats is bringing autonomous food delivery robots to the streets of Tokyo next month through a new partnership with robotics startup Cartken and Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Electric. The sidewalk-roving robots will start making deliveries in select parts of Tokyo by the end of March, marking the first international expansion of Uber‘s robotic food delivery service.

The Silicon Valley-based company Cartken has created delivery robots called Model C. These robots are equipped with artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to navigate sidewalks and detect any obstacles in their path. These robots have six wheels and can carry up to 27 litres of cargo. They travel at a walking pace of up to 3.3 miles per hour.

Cartken’s technology allows for remote monitoring and guidance of the robots if they encounter an unforeseen obstacle.

Uber Eats customers within the delivery zone can order food, just like they do, through the app, and opt to have an autonomous robot deliver their meal. The robot will drive itself to the restaurant for pickup and then to the customer’s location. Customers can also opt to have their meal left at the door without requiring hand-off.

Mitsubishi Electric will oversee operations and training in Tokyo. “We hope that this newly announced initiative will serve as a catalyst for the spread of robot delivery services in Japan,” said Shoji Tanaka, Senior General Manager of Mitsubishi Electric’s Advanced Application Development Center. He cited robots as an “effective countermeasure” for Japan’s ongoing logistics labour shortage.

Uber Eats initially launched robotic food delivery in Miami in early 2022 through a partnership with Cartken. The two companies brought the autonomous delivery bots to Fairfax, Virginia, later in the year. The Tokyo expansion represents the first deployment of robots outside the United States.

Cartken CEO and co-founder Qingrong “Gary” Xiao said Tokyo was a natural next step thanks to Japan’s longtime embrace of robotics and automation.

“The market is very friendly, and open-minded about using robot delivery services,” said Xiao. “We are very excited to partner with Uber Eats and Mitsubishi Electric to provide Tokyo residents with best-in-class delivery experiences.”

The companies have not disclosed which Tokyo restaurants will participate in the autonomous delivery program or precisely which neighbourhoods will have access to the service. We expect to learn more details closer to the late March launch date.

  • Published On Feb 21, 2024 at 06:41 PM IST

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