Japan unveils plans for 500km conveyor belt road that could replace 25,000 trucks per day

  • Officials in Japan have unveiled plans to create a 310-mile conveyor belt road
  • It will be used to ship freight without the need for trucks 
  • The automated road would run 24/7 a day and could replace up to 25,000 trucks per day

Published on Jul 03, 2024 at 9:21 AM (UTC+4)
by Claire Reid

Last updated on Jul 03, 2024 at 6:39 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

Officials in Japan have unveiled plans to build a 310-mile conveyor belt road to replace the need for trucks to carry freight.

A new proposed project from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism would see high-tech, automated conveyor belts named the Autoflow-Road. 

It will be used to transport goods between Tokyo and Osaka – a distance of around 500km (310 miles). 

The Autoflow-Road will use a high-capacity pallet system to move up to a tonne of freight per pallet – and will run continuously: 24 hours a day.  

READ MORE! Japan reportedly building an elevator that will take humans to space

The conveyor belt road is designed to carry a lot of freight

It’s thought the conveyor-belt-style road could carry as much freight as 25,000 truck drivers every day.

The futuristic-sounding system will be used to tackle logistics problems including a lack of delivery drivers and an increase in freight demands, South China Morning Post reports. 

The Japanese government is hopeful that the new Autoflow-Road will make transporting freight more efficient. 

“Automated logistics roads are designed to get the most out of road space by utilizing hard shoulders, median strips [central reservations], and tunnels beneath the roadway,” said Shuya Muramatsu, a senior official in the ministry’s road economics research office.

Yoshitsugu Hayashi, a professor of transport policy and systems at Chubu University went on to say that with the surface of roads becoming more congested creating tunnels underneath is a ‘sensible approach’. 

“There is already space in the median strip or on hard shoulders of existing roads, so the basic infrastructure is already in place and that should make the project relatively easy,” Hayashi said. 

The ambitious project is also pretty green

Alongside helping to solve a looming logistic problem – the new project would also help to cut emissions by takings thousands of trucks off the road. 

Unveiling the Autoflow-Road plan on June 30, transport minister Tetsuo Saito said the concept ‘will not only address the logistics crisis but also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We would like to speedily proceed with discussions on the matter’.

As yet, no timeline has been revealed for when – or even if – the project will get underway. But, as you’d imagine, it would be a massive, and costly, undertaking. 

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri estimated that the cost of Autoflow-Road’s construction could reach as much as $508 million (80 billion yen) per 10km stretch. Ouch. 

This isn’t the first ambitious project we’ve seen coming from Japan. 

Car-maker Toyota recently announced its futuristic new city dubbed ‘Woven City’ is getting ready to welcome its first residents. 

Some of the images used for this article were generated using AI

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Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist who hails from the UK but is now living in New Zealand. She began her career after graduating with a degree in Journalism from Liverpool John Moore’s University and has more than a decade of experience, writing for both local newspapers and national news sites. Across her career she's covered a wide variety of topics, including celebrity, cryptocurrency, politics, true crime and just about everything in between.