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Japan City Tests Garbage-Carrying Automated Cart to Assist Elderly Population

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An automated cart carrying garbage bags follows Mitori Shiraishi in the Oda area of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Dec. 11.

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki — A trial run of using an automated cart to help the elderly dispose of garbage began earlier this month in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The experiment, launched on Dec. 11 in the Oda area, which has a large elderly population, is testing a cart as it carries heavy bags of garbage while following an elderly person to a garbage collection point. The automated cart is equipped with lasers, which allow it to recognize and follow a person.

The project is likely the first of its kind in Japan, according to a city government official. Tests are expected to continue through the end of February 2024.

The city government aims to harness the latest technologies to assist the elderly. To realize this goal, the government is evaluating Tsukuba-based startup Doog Inc., which develops machines that help transport items in factories and warehouses, to see if the startup’s automated cart is effective in assisting the elderly with certain tasks.

Mitori Shiraishi, 95, an Oda resident who lives about 40 meters from a garbage collection point, said, “Carrying heavy bags is a challenge.”

On the first day of the trial, Shiraishi placed her garbage bags on the cart and pushed a button for it to recognize her. As she walked down the street, the cart slowly followed about 1 to 2 meters behind her and soon reached the garbage collection point.

“[The cart] made it pretty easy,” Shiraishi said.

The trial will soon include other elderly Oda residents.

Another trial is underway to test if the carts can also help transport items purchased at a mobile market to a person’s home.

“We hope to use the latest technologies to realize a society that is easy [for everyone] to live in,” said a city official.