Transport

Monster 310-mile automated cargo conveyor will replace 25,000 trucks

Monster 310-mile automated cargo conveyor will replace 25,000 trucks
The Tokyo-Osaka automated logistics system, pictured using generative tools, will use conveyor belts or small, autonomous carts to move cargo
The Tokyo-Osaka automated logistics system, pictured using generative tools, will use conveyor belts or small, autonomous carts to move cargo
View 3 Images
The Tokyo-Osaka automated logistics system, pictured using generative tools, will use conveyor belts or small, autonomous carts to move cargo
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The Tokyo-Osaka automated logistics system, pictured using generative tools, will use conveyor belts or small, autonomous carts to move cargo
A driverless, zero-emissions alternative to delivery trucks, pictured using generative tools
2/3
A driverless, zero-emissions alternative to delivery trucks, pictured using generative tools
Autonomous carts travelling through tunnels, pictured using generative tools, is another option
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Autonomous carts travelling through tunnels, pictured using generative tools, is another option
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The Japanese government is planning to connect major cities with automated zero-emissions logistics links that can quietly and efficiently shift millions of tons of cargo, while getting tens of thousands of trucks off the road.

According to The Japan News, the project has been under discussion since February by an expert panel at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism ministry. A draft outline of an interim report was released Friday, revealing plans to complete an initial link between Tokyo and Osaka by 2034.

Japan's well-known population collapse issues foretell severe labor squeezes in the coming years, and one specific issue this project aims to curtail is the continuing rise in online shopping, with a forecast decline in the numbers of delivery drivers that can move goods around. The country is expecting some 30% of parcels simply won't make it from A to B by 2030, because there'll be nobody to move them.

Hence this wild logistical link, the first iteration of which the team says will move as much small cargo between Tokyo and Osaka as 25,000 trucks.

A driverless, zero-emissions alternative to delivery trucks, pictured using generative tools
A driverless, zero-emissions alternative to delivery trucks, pictured using generative tools

Exactly how it'll do this is yet to be nailed down, but individual pallets will carry up to a ton of small cargo items, and they'll move without human interference from one end to the other.

One possibility is to use massive conveyor belts to cover the 500-km (310-mile) distance between the two cities, running alongside the highway or potentially through tunnels underneath the road. Alternatively, the infrastructure could simply provide flat lanes or tunnels, and the pallets could be shifted by automated electric carts.

A 500-km tunnel, mind you, would be insanely expensive at somewhere around US$23 billion before any conveyor belts or autonomous carts are factored in. And one does have to wonder if autonomous electric trucks might be able to do the job without any of the infrastructure requirements – the project's target start date is 2034, and given the current state of driverless technology, it certainly seems very plausible that we'll have self-driving vehicles on the road in huge numbers by then.

Autonomous carts travelling through tunnels, pictured using generative tools, is another option
Autonomous carts travelling through tunnels, pictured using generative tools, is another option

Still, the ministry has put out a call to private companies to fund the project, and it appears to mean business. “[The project] will not only address the logistics crisis, but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito. “We would like to speedily proceed with the discussions on the matter.”

Source: The Japan News

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19 comments
19 comments
David F
In effect, dedicated rail freight. But automated. Almost anything that reduces congestion and particulates is welcome, especially if there may be the benefit of improved reliability and reduced cost of delivery.
paleochocolate
Anyone forgetting trains?
Expanded Viewpoint
Is anyone forgetting that lots of Carbon based fuels will be required to be burned to dig and build out the tunnels, grade the land, manufacture the parts needed, etc.? Is it going to be all down hill in both directions? If not, then even MORE fuel will need to be burned to keep the loads of goods moving! And there is no such thing as "zero emissions" anywhere in the world! People who bandy that term around have no clue about what zero really means.
And what happens when this complicated piece of machinery breaks down? How much will it cost to repair it and how is that going to be done quickly and efficiently? Where will they get the well trained up people to make those repairs with such a severe decline in the population? And with that decline, do they really need to do this project? Or is it going to be scaled back at the same rate as the population is dropping off? Is it going to be so well designed that it won't ever break down? Japan is noted for the severity, if not the frequency of its earthquakes, so what do they plan to do about that?
vince
Seems of you have an accident all shipments are halted up to days at a time. Putting all your eggs in one basket is never smart.
PAV
An electric trolley system!
Captain Danger
Reminds me of the story "The Roads Must Roll" by Robert Heinlein.
anthony88
When initially reported in Japan, the reports said they were going to talk about the possibility of dedicated lanes on the existing toll roads for autonomous trucks.
robertswww
I found Loz's choice of using "human interference" instead of "human interaction" quite amusing...

"individual pallets will carry up to a ton of small cargo items, and they'll move without human interference from one end to the other."

Glad to see that Japan is planning for it's future labor shortage, and I also like the idea of seperating the cargo trucks from the passenger vehicles.
J
A train. What they're describing is a train. It makes zero sense to a 310 mile conveyor belt. That would be an absolute nightmare to maintain. I can't believe Japan of all countries would even entertain such a stupid idea, especially considering how good they are at building rail. They could build a new freight line faster and for lower cost with a dedicated right of way so much easier than this nonsense.
riczero-b
A woolly yet baroque concept . Close 2 lanes of existing highway for 4 hours overnight and use already developed autonomous trucks . If the population is shrinking this wouldn't noticeably impact .
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