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Mitsubishi Electric Partners with Startup Cartken to Enter Robotic Delivery

According to TechCrunch, Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric is launching a pilot program to explore the value of autonomous robots. The company will partner with startup Cartken, to release a handful of Cartken ’s delivery robots at a mall in Japan, offering indoor and curbside food delivery. They are initially for Starbucks customers.

Mitsubishi Electric said that customers will be able to use their Starbucks app to select robot deliveries for their orders, and Cartken robots will meet customers at a delivery point inside and outside the mall. According to Anjali Jindal Naik, COO, and co-founder of Cartken, the pilot begins at AEON Mall Tokoname. It plans to expand to provide curbside pickup service for shoppers.

Cartken is Mitsubishi Electric’s first foray into a delivery robot and will help the company explore cases for the technology while tapping into Japan’s burgeoning autonomous delivery market.

“Mitsubishi Electric wants to create a new robotic delivery market in Japan by using Cartken robots,” Naoki Fujita, who manages Mitsubishi Electric’s Mobile Innovation Division, told TechCrunch. “This is a fresh start for us, where we can take advantage of our knowledge, technology, and even customer relationships across Mitsubishi’s business units to witness the success of this project. We can expand new markets for the technology.”

Although in the first phase of the cooperation, Mitsubishi Electric acts as a distributor of Cartken technology, but in the next step, the two companies intend to jointly develop more technologies to support Mitsubishi Electric’s future cooperation. For example, they’re currently working on developing facility technology that would help Cartken ‘s robots interact with elevators.

Cartken, which partnered with REEF Technologies last year to bring its self-driving robots to downtown Miami for food delivery, will not only benefit from Mitsubishi Electric’s expertise in electrical equipment but will also help the startup establish itself in the Japanese business.

Starting a pilot at AEON Mall will help make this happen. Aeon is one of the largest retailers in Asia, and its retail network covers not only hundreds of malls but also convenience stores and supermarkets.

“Aeon Mall was chosen because its perfect ecosystem to test the robot in a lot of scenarios,” Naik told TechCrunch. “Moreover, AEON Mall allows for a range of usage surveys, with the goal of rapidly adding robots, letting more tourists experience the delivery service. And then it will scale up by 2022.”

Cartken’s C robots were selected by Mitsubishi Electric because of their high ratings for safety and reliability in both indoor and outdoor environments. The startup says its robots can navigate autonomously in and out of malls, but they are all equipped with remote monitoring systems and can be manipulated by humans if necessary.

“So far, we’ve only encountered a few situations that require emergency remote assistance,” Naik said. “A new building that requires an alternate route is an example of remote operator intervention. Likewise, remote assistance is used in the setup phase, allowing us to deploy in just a few days.”

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