Panasonic says that the robot it produced, called “Hakubo”, is able to identify the barriers it encounters on the street, and enables it to turn and maneuver and avoid them. It’s even programmed to show a “tearful eye” if someone gets in its way.
Amid a labor shortage in Japan and problems of rural isolation, the Tokyo government is relaxing traffic laws to allow autonomous delivery robots to take to the streets and work.
Japan has one of the world’s oldest populations, with nearly 30 percent of its citizens over the age of 65. Many live in sparsely populated rural areas, which complicates access to daily necessities.
And labor shortages in their cities and new rules limiting overtime for truck drivers are making it difficult for companies to keep up with delivery and consumption demands.
Self-driving robots may be key to solving these problems.
Currently, several Japanese companies are working jointly to test these robots on the streets of Tokyo, and people’s first reaction was somewhat positive, according to engineer Dai Fujikawa of the giant Panasonic, one of the project supervisors.
However, the government says that the spread of this type of technology on the streets will happen gradually, as there is in return pressure to protect the jobs that people perform. “We don’t expect a drastic change now because there are businesses at stake,” says Hiroki Kanda, an official at the Ministry of Commerce.
The government is seeking to regulate the issue of robots accurately, in the Japanese manner, as it will limit its maximum speed to six kilometers per hour, in order to avoid severe injuries in the event of accidents.
Panasonic says that the robot it produced, called “Hakubo”, is able to identify the barriers it encounters on the street, and enables it to turn and maneuver and avoid them. It was even programmed to show a teary eye if someone got in its way.