Uber has announced that its Uber Eats business will begin using self-driving robots in Japan to deliver food to customers, in partnership with Mitsubishi Electric and robotics company Cartken.

The robots will launch by the end of March, starting in a select area of Tokyo before expanding elsewhere.

Japan is the first international site offering the company’s autonomous delivery option, following a soft launch in parts of the US in 2022.

The Cartken-created robots, dubbed the ‘Model C’ range, are powered by AI and drive on six wheels.

The fleet has multiple sensors and cameras to help choose the safest route and prevent collisions. Cartken has also designed a program allowing personnel to control the robot remotely while monitoring its movement and status.

According to Uber Eats and Cartken, the cameras will automatically blur the faces of citizens on the street to protect privacy.

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Citing staff shortages, Uber Eats Japan CEO Shintaro Nakagawa said that robots will not become widespread over time but will be periodically introduced by the company.

“Amid concerns about labour shortages, including the 2024 problem, autonomous robots will be introduced over the medium to long term as an attempt to increase options for delivery methods,” Nakagawa said in a statement.