Honda and Rakuten collaborate on campus robot delivery trial

This summer, Japan’s University of Tsukuba is welcoming an exciting new guest to their campus: a delivery robot.

Rakuten’s Drone UGV team has teamed up with Honda to run a trial robot delivery on the campus of the Ibaraki-based uni.

The vehicle was developed by Honda, with the delivery boxes and systems provided by Rakuten.
The vehicle was developed by Honda, with the delivery boxes and systems provided by Rakuten.

A short trip north from Tokyo, Tsukuba University is situated on one of Japan’s largest university campuses, making it a perfect testing ground for a UGV project.

“We want to make regular robot delivery services a reality.”

HIROYUKI USHIJIMA, SENIOR MANAGER, UGV BUSINESS SECTION, RAKUTEN

Rakuten has collaborated with Tsukuba on several occasions over the years, most recently on a Special Joint Research Project for “5G Experiential Design,” in which Rakuten Mobile researchers are looking for new experiences enabled by 5G, involving medicine, IT, system engineering, the arts, sports and more.

The latest collaboration will see the deployment of an automated vehicle developed by Honda together with delivery boxes and systems developed by Rakuten. The trial deliveries will be carried out over a route of around 500 meters, which includes some sections of public road.

Rakuten has a wealth of experience running autonomous delivery trials - both on the ground and in the air.
Rakuten has a wealth of experience running autonomous delivery trials – both on the ground and in the air.

Rakuten Mobile’s ongoing collaboration with the university will also come into play, as the delivery robot will be monitored remotely using the carrier’s on-campus LTE network from a distance of up to 650 meters.

“We’re hoping to leverage both Honda’s expertise in building cutting-edge hardware as well as Rakuten’s own wealth of experience running autonomous deliveries,” said Hiroyuki Ushijima, Senior Manager of Rakuten’s UGV Business Section. “We want to make regular robot delivery services a reality.”

The delivery route includes sections of public roads, meaning the vehicle must be registered to the city.
The delivery route includes sections of public roads, meaning the vehicle must be registered to the city.

In addition to running almost a dozen different airborne autonomous delivery services, Rakuten has previously operated UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) deliveries to glampers in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, to picnickers by Tokyo Bay, to students at Chiba University and, most recently, to residential homes in a neighborhood south of Tokyo.

The delivery robot can be found trundling across the Tsukuba campus until August 31, 2021.
The delivery robot can be found rolling across the Tsukuba campus until August 31, 2021.

Ultimately, Rakuten’s work on autonomous drone and UGV solutions is all about empowering society. “We’re determined to make autonomous deliveries a reality and help find a solution to the many logistical problems faced by Japan’s isolated communities.”

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