Uber Eats is extending its autonomous food delivery service to Japan


After successfully launching its autonomous food delivery service in Miami and Fairfax, Virginia, Uber Eats is now set to introduce the same innovative service in Japan, marking its first venture outside the United States. Collaborating once again with Cartken, a startup founded by former Google employees, and receiving local compliance support from Mitsubishi Electric, Uber Eats plans to deploy a fleet of Model C sidewalk delivery robots in select areas of Tokyo starting in March. Shintaro Nakagawa, CEO of Uber Eats Japan, sees this autonomous delivery service as a solution to the local labor shortage issue, while complementing existing human delivery methods such as bicycle, motorbike, light cargo, and on-foot deliveries.

Cartken’s Model C robot, equipped with six cameras and advanced AI algorithms for autonomous driving and obstacle detection, offers remote control capabilities when necessary. With guidance from Mitsubishi, the robot has been tailored to meet the specific needs of the Japanese market. This includes adhering to local regulations, such as a capped speed limit of 5.4 km/h (approximately 3.36 mph) and a reduced loading capacity of about 0.95 cubic feet (27 liters), likely due to additional thermal insulation in the compartment. Uber Eats also emphasizes privacy by automatically masking people’s faces in footage captured by the robots.

While this marks Uber Eats’ first foray into robotic delivery in Japan, Cartken has already established a presence in the country through its partnership with Mitsubishi. Since early 2022, the collaboration has provided autonomous delivery services for Starbucks, Rakuten, and Seiyu in various parts of Japan. Additionally, Cartken has teamed up with Grubhub in the United States to offer robotic food delivery on college campuses, including Ohio State University and the University of Arizona.

Although Uber Eats has not disclosed which Tokyo restaurants will participate in its robotic delivery service, its partnership with Cartken, along with the latter’s local experience, suggests a smooth implementation. However, it is unlikely that the robots will navigate through crowded areas like Shibuya, at least in the initial stages of the trial.