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Futuristic conveyor belt could replace 25,000 trucks in Japan

Japan is considering a 311-mile-long conveyor belt system to tackle its delivery driver shortage amid an aging population and rising e-commerce demands.

Japan highway with trucks
Image: Pixabay

In a bid to combat the looming crisis of a shrinking delivery driver workforce, Japan is considering a mind-boggling solution: a 500-kilometer-long conveyor belt that could haul as much cargo as 25,000 trucks. 

The country’s population is aging at an alarming rate, and experts predict that by 2030, a staggering 30% of parcels won’t make it from point A to point B simply because there won’t be enough bodies behind the wheel to move them.

E-commerce is only exacerbating the issue, with online shopping surging in popularity and putting an unsustainable strain on logistics networks.

Japan’s vision for an auto-flow road

highway at night with lights
Image: Pixabay

Enter the proposed “auto-flow road,” a driverless, emissions-free conveyor belt system that would whisk individual pallets laden with up to a ton of small cargo between Tokyo and Osaka without human intervention.

The first phase of the project aims to connect the two megacities by 2034, with private companies being courted to foot the bill.

One possibility is to build a gargantuan conveyor belt 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.

Visualizations depict a futuristic network of sleek, AI-controlled conveyor belts and autonomous carts zipping through tunnels.

But the project comes with a hefty price tag: a 500-kilometer tunnel alone could cost a mind-boggling $23 billion before even factoring in the conveyor belts or autonomous carts.

And with driverless tech advancing at a breakneck pace, some are wondering if self-driving trucks might render the whole infrastructure moot by the target start date of 2034.

Despite the head-scratching, the Japanese government seems dead serious about pushing forward. The project promises not only to alleviate the logistics crisis but also to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

With private investment being sought and a draft report already on the table, this wild logistical link may just become a reality.

What do you think of Japan’s plan to replace delivery trucks with a massive conveyor belt? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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