Japan's logistics provider Yamato Transport and leading e-tailer Rakuten are reportedly among a group of companies set to partner with the Japanese government to test unmanned delivery robots on public roads, Nikkei reported.
The government will set up a council of officials from the public and private sectors next week to identify potential issues, including liability in the event of accidents and how to maintain
safety. The group will also examine operating rules that could eventually be added to the Road Traffic Act.
The delivery robots are expected to alleviate the labour shortage in Japan's logistics sector, as well as create new business opportunities. They will be equipped with cameras and GPS to deliver goods without human intervention. Tests are scheduled to finish by March 2020.
Legal framework for operating robots still has to be established
The Nikkei report said that council members will include officials from real estate developer Mitsubishi Estate, Japan Post, electronics maker Panasonic and ZMP, a Tokyo self-driving technology company.
Officials from the National Police Agency, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and local governments will also sit on the council.
The rapidly growing e-commerce sector has put pressure on logistics operations worldwide, which are threatened by a shortage of labour.
Following the conclusion of the tests in 2020, the Japanese government will establish the legal framework for operating the robots on public roads.
This is likely to include revising the Road Traffic Act, which currently regards delivery robots as self-driving vehicles.
So far, these are not allowed to operate on public roads or sidewalks.
Nol van Fenema