Driverless taxis, driverless trucks, and totally unstaffed grocery stores are in the news.

  • In the “already here” category, Sweden boasts the first unstaffed grocery store.
  • In the UK, fleet testing of driverless trucks begins in 2017.
  • In Japan, 2020 is the deadline date for driverless taxis.

How far behind will the US be?

World’s First Unmanned Grocery Store

Please consider In Sweden’s 1st Unstaffed Food Shop, All You Need is a Phone.


Swedish IT entrepreneur Robert Ilijason shows how to use a cell phone to scan a purchase at the no-staff, app shop in the southern Sweden village of Viken in this photo dated Jan. 27, 2016. Customers to the new general store need to register and download a cell phone app, then customers simply use their cellphones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases then they get charged for their purchases in a monthly invoice. (AP Photo/Jan Olsen)

Home alone with his hungry son, Ilijason had dropped the last baby food jar on the floor, and had to drive 20 minutes from the small town of Viken in southern Sweden to find a supermarket that was open.

Now the 39-year-old IT specialist runs a 24-hour shop with no cashier.

Customers simply use their cellphones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases. All they need to do is to register for the service and download an app. They get charged for their purchases in a monthly invoice.

The shop has basics like milk, bread, sugar, canned food, diapers and other products that you expect to find in a small convenience store. It doesn’t have tobacco or medical drugs because of the risk of theft. Alcohol cannot be sold in convenience stores in Sweden.

“My ambition is to spread this idea to other villages and small towns,” said Ilijason. “It is incredible that no one has thought of his before.”

He hopes the savings of having no staff will help bring back small stores to the countryside. In recent decades, such stores have been replaced by bigger supermarkets often many miles (kilometers) away.

Ilijason receives deliveries at the shop and stacks products on the shelves. Then he lets the customers do the rest.

He has installed six surveillance cameras to discourage shoplifting in the 480-square-foot (45-square-meter) store. Also, he is alerted by a text message if the front door stays open for longer than eight seconds or if someone tries to break it open.

UK Fleet Tests Driverless Trucks

Next on the list, the Mirror reports Driverless Lorries Heading for Tests on UK Motorways Next Year.

A fleet of driverless lorries will be road-tested on a quiet stretch of British motorway next year, it has been claimed.

Chancellor George Osborne pledged last year to invest millions in automated car technology as a way of improve efficiency and reducing traffic congestion.

And the seed of those plans could come to fruition as early as 2017, with a “platoon” of driverless HGVs set to be tried out along an unidentified UK motorway.

According to The Times, that motorway will be the M6 near Carlisle, where up to 10 vehicles will be tested, with a driver sitting behind the wheel of every lorry as a precaution.

The computer controlled lorries will be driven just metres apart from one another in a “platoon” formation – one of the much-heralded advantages of driverless technology.

Communicating through radar, the trucks are able to detect the exact distance between one another, locking into a tight, single row that would hopefully free up road space for other vehicles.

driverless Trucks2

If a lorry is forced to break suddenly, a signal is sent within half a second to the truck behind, which also breaks instantly and maintains the distance.

For those who claim the Mirror is not a reliable site, the BBC had nearly the identical story. I used the Mirror because it had better images.

Similarly, SBS News in Australia comments “Platoons of driverless trucks are to be road-tested on a major motorway in the UK.”

Driverless Taxis Operational by 2020

Via translation from El Economista, Japan Introduces the Robot Taxi.

The Japanese company Robot Taxi has begun testing a driverless taxi service for residents in Fujisawa (south of Tokyo) with the aim of driving these vehicles operate automatically in 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Japanese company intends that its fully automatic driving taxis will operate during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to transport athletes and tourists from the Japanese capital to the Olympic venues and vice versa.

The Japanese government announced last October that the driverless vehicles can drive through Tokyo in 2020 and also aims to have in place a legal framework for such cars before the end of the next fiscal year, which ends in March 2017.

Winner is Japan

Every time I do one of these stories, naysayers tell me it won’t happen.

Instead, I suggest my often-forecast 2020 date for taxis may have been too pessimistic, at least for Japan. 2019 now seems likely.

What Japan does, others will follow. In France, expect massive protests and shutdowns.

In the US, Uber drivers will vanish, perhaps not by 2020, but well before 2025.

Naysayers cannot stop the march of technology.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock