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The first self-driving cars will be seen on the streets of Japan from March next year delivering online shopping orders.

Delivery company Yamato Transport and information technology company DeNA have announced they will start trialling a self-driving car delivery service from March 2017.

▼ The self-driving “Roboneko” trial vehicle

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The project has been called “Roboneko” (Robot cat) – a play on the transport companies colloquial name “kuroneko”, which means black cat (in reference to the black cat on the company logo).

▼ The “Roboneko” logo


Customers will be able to order items from their smart phones from a custom app. The service is being called “on-demand service delivery”, where you can instantly track where your delivery is and what time it will arrive. The trials will be carried out at various “national strategic special zones”, according to a press release. Let’s hope there will be a “special zone” near you!

Unfortunately though we won’t be seeing the cars driving around by themselves during the test period – there will be a driver sitting in the vehicles just in case something goes wrong.

▼ A human actually has to drive this regular “Kuroneko” delivery car

天然ガス - Own work

The experiment will also be testing a “shopping agent service” where the automatic cars will pick up goods purchased online from a second party and deliver them to your door. The press release says that this service is intended for “families with small children” and the “elderly”.

The trial will be carried out for one year.

It looks like the future has arrived and we are going to be right in the middle of it ordering Hello Kitty and Pokémon goods to our hearts content. Would you be tempted to use this self-driving car delivery service?

Source: Asahi Shimbun
Images: DeNA Press Release, Wikipedia/天然ガス