(p. A6) . . . , however hospitable Japanese businesses have been to robots, they have learned that robots able to perform somewhat sophisticated tasks cost much more than human workers.
So at the factory in Asahikawa, where about 60 percent of the work is automated, many tasks still require the human touch. Workers peel pumpkins, for example, because some skin enhances the flavor of stew. A robot can’t determine just how much skin to shuck off.
Other efforts to use robots or automation have hit snags, in programs ranging from self-driving buses to package-delivering drones or robots that comfort nursing home residents.
A hotel staffed by androids in southern Japan ended up laying off some of its robots after customers complained that they were not as good at hospitality as people.
During a trial of self-driving buses in Oita City, also in southern Japan, one bus crashed into a curb, and officials realized that autonomous vehicles were not quite ready to cope with situations like traffic jams, jaywalkers or cars running red lights.
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 4, 2019, and has the title “Japan Loves Robots, but Getting Them to Do Human Work Isn’t Easy.”)