Photo/Illutration An autonomous delivery robot runs on a pedestrian deck in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, on May 26. (Tetsuo Taniguchi)

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture--A self-driving wheeled robot can now deliver groceries and daily necessities to about 1,000 households in central Tsukuba.

The delivery service, provided by Rakuten Group Inc., Panasonic Holdings Corp. and Seiyu Co., started on May 28 and covers an 850-meter radius from the Tsukuba Takezono outlet of the Seiyu supermarket chain.

The deliveries are made only on Saturdays, and the service will end on July 30.

The delivery robot measures 117 centimeters long, 65 cm wide and 115 cm tall. It has a loading space inside its body with a capacity of 114 liters, which is more than enough for the contents of two shopping baskets. The unit can also carry refrigerated and frozen items.

The robot uses a sensor and camera to check its surroundings and stops automatically when it nears pedestrians and other objects.

It even makes such announcements as “I’m passing through” and “I’m making a right turn” on its delivery runs.

When it arrives at its destination, the customer enters a PIN number to open the compartment on the side of the robot and collect the items.

More than 2,000 types of products can be carried by the robot.

Orders can be made via smartphone on an exclusive website, and deliveries can arrive in 30 minutes at the earliest.

Customers can also select the delivery time slot with a one-hour window between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

A handling fee of 110 yen ($0.85), including tax, is added to the price of the products for each delivery.

“Demand for product delivery will grow due to the aging of society,” a Rakuten representative said. “But because a shortage of delivery staff is also expected, robots will have a bigger role to play.”

During a demonstration held on May 26, the robot, loaded with products, ran a distance of about 1 kilometer at a maximum speed of 4 kph and arrived at an apartment building in about 15 minutes.

“It is convenient because I can finish shopping in a short time between work and child-rearing. I want to keep using the service,” said Naoko Fujisawa, 44, who ordered side dishes, cat food and other items.