Autonomous robot takeaway delivery arrives in Tokyo

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. whiz / wɪz / (v.) – to move quickly while producing a buzzing sound

    While walking in the city, a skateboarder whizzed past us on the sidewalk.

  2. crosswalk / ˈkrɔsˌwɔk / (n.) – an area on the road marked with painted lines for people to walk across safely

    Drivers should reduce their speed when driving closer to crosswalks.

  3. dodge / dɒdʒ / (v.) – to move quickly to one side to avoid being hit by someone or something

    The child was dodging cars as he crossed the busy street.

  4. collision / kəˈlɪʒ ən / (n.) – an accident in which two things or people, moving in different directions, hit each other

    The collision between the car and the truck resulted in a traffic jam.

  5. embed / ɛmˈbɛd / (v.) – to place a computer or a piece of electric equipment inside a product to control how it works

    The IT team embedded a security feature into the application to restrict access to authorized users only.


Read the text below.

Uber Eats is launching a new autonomous robot delivery service on the streets of Tokyo. If you live or work in the busy Nihonbashi district, you can order food on your smartphone and have it delivered by a little green self-driving robot.

Uber Eats Japan, collaborating with Mitsubishi Electric and delivery robotics firm Cartken, announced the launch of the autonomous delivery robot service starting March 6. Uber Eats already has an autonomous delivery service in several locations in North America and has chosen Japan as the second country to start its service.

Alvin Oo, Director of Market Operations of Uber Eats Japan says that they are testing the service in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo.

“Robots are just another form of delivery method. So we have bicycles, motorbikes, cars in Japan. Delivery robots would be another form of delivery. Again we are testing. We are finding out which area will be suitable. For now, we are testing in Nihonbashi area. We believe that the sidewalks and everything is going to be suitable.”

At a demonstration event, the little green robot whizzed across sidewalks and crosswalks dodging pedestrians. Its mission was to deliver a meal to a demonstrator who had just put in an order on his smartphone.

The autonomous vehicles work during the weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting with several partnered restaurants in the Nihonbashi area at first, but they hope to expand the service in the future, says Oo.

The robot can move up to the speed of 5.4 kilometers per hour and stop automatically avoiding collisions with people and obstacles using its sensors. Back at HQ, a team of humans is monitoring the robot’s activities via cameras embedded in the robot, explains Oo.

“The robot is autonomous, so you actually don’t need the operator. It can run by itself. It can know where to go once you upload the map location. It can navigate how to get there. But there’s always human operators in the background, watching the robots to ensure that any events or any emergencies, there’s a quick response. So robots are out there, but human in the back, so it’s very safe operations.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Why do you think Uber Eats has chosen Japan as the second country to launch its autonomous delivery service? Do you think this would be a positive development in the country? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Alvin Oo mentioned that they are currently identifying suitable areas for the deployment of delivery robots. What criteria do you think the company should prioritize to ensure that an area is suitable for such a service (ex. consumer preferences, population density)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • How important is the personal interaction aspect of food delivery for you? Do you think autonomous robots can provide a similar level of service as human delivery drivers in terms of customer interaction? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What possible pros and cons do you see in using autonomous robots for food delivery in busy city areas like Tokyo (ex. pro: continuous food delivery service late at night, con: security risks like the robot or the food being stolen)? Discuss.