If you want a peek at the future of last-mile delivery and have some extra frequent-flier miles to burn, then book a trip to Yokosuka City in Japan. Stroll over to Umikaze Park, a three-acre green space at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, and download the "Rakuten Drone" app onto your smartphone. You can then use the app to place an online order with Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu GK that will be delivered to your exact location via robot.
The innovative service is part of a pilot that allows visitors to Umikaze Park to order any of the approximately 400 products—including fresh food and beverages for barbecues—carried by the nearby Seiyu Livin Yokosuka store. Deliveries are made by four-wheeled self-driving carts to the location of the customer's choice within the park. The technology is the result of a partnership between e-commerce giants JD.com and Rakuten to develop unmanned delivery solutions that include drones and autonomous delivery bots. The limited-time service follows a successful pilot using drones to deliver orders to customers on Sarushima Island in Tokyo Bay this summer.
JD started developing autonomous delivery robots in 2016 in a bid to streamline deliveries to office and residential buildings in high-density urban areas. The company has since launched several smart delivery stations in China. The program in Umikaze Park, which runs Sept. 21 to Oct. 27, marks JD's next move—opening up its unmanned technology capabilities to partners in a range of industries.