This Monster 310-Mile Automated Cargo Conveyor Will Replace 25,000 Trucks

Japan is charting an ambitious path toward revolutionizing its logistics network with an automated and zero-emissions system designed to connect major cities.

The Japanese government is starting a ground-breaking effort to build automated zero-emission logistics networks that will carefully and smoothly move millions of tonnes of cargo throughout the country. This project seeks to remove tens of thousands of vehicles from the road in an effort to combat the looming labor crisis in the nation and the growing popularity of online shopping.

The Japan News reports that a group of experts at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism has been debating since February. According to a draft outline on Friday, the first logistics link between Tokyo and Osaka will be by 2034.

Japan faces significant demographic challenges, with a declining population that is expected to result in severe labor shortages in the coming years. One critical area of concern is the logistics sector, where the rise in online shopping is outpacing the availability of delivery drivers. By 2030, it is projected that up to 30% of parcels may fail to reach their destinations due to a shortage of drivers.

This innovative project envisions a driverless, zero-emissions alternative to traditional delivery trucks, aiming to move as much cargo between Tokyo and Osaka as would be carried by 25,000 trucks. The logistics system will utilize individual pallets, each capable of carrying up to a ton of small cargo items, to autonomously transport goods across the 500-kilometer (310-mile) route without human intervention.

Several methods for implementing this system are being considered. One option involves using massive conveyor belts alongside highways or tunnels beneath roads. Another possibility is the creation of flat lanes or tunnels for automated electric carts to transport the pallets. However, constructing a 500-kilometer tunnel alone could cost approximately $23 billion, excluding the additional expenses for conveyor belts or autonomous carts. This raises the question of whether autonomous electric trucks, widely available by 2034, might accomplish the same goals without such extensive infrastructure investments.

Despite these challenges, the Ministry actively seeks private-sector funding for the project. Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito emphasized the initiative’s dual benefits, stating, “[The project] will not only address the logistics crisis but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We want to proceed with the discussions on the matter speedily.”

Source: The Japan News

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