Autonomous delivery robot Kar-Go hits the road

Autonomous cars, Car stuff, News

It may look like a giant bug on wheels but this is
Kar-go, a self-driving delivery robot built by Academy of Robotics. 

Using artificial intelligence and a specially developed package management system to provide contact-free delivery, the electric vehicle is capable of delivering in both city-centres and suburban and rural locations.

It can cover 60 miles on a single charge – more than the average daily delivery round – and could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of parcel deliveries. According to the DfT’s Road to Zero report, 33 per cent of the Nitrogen Oxide emissions from road transport were from vans, and emissions from cars and vans are reportedly causing around almost 10,000 early deaths annually.

In a landmark first journey, the vehicle successfully transported medical supplies from a pharmacy to a care home in Hounslow, Greater London. In accordance with current legislation, there was a safety driver on-board Kar-go who could take over at any time, while an additional layer of safety was provided by its nearby Command Hub.

The successful delivery shows how driverless vehicles could eventually become a common sight on the streets delivering parcels across the UK.

Says William Sachiti, the founder of Academy Robotics:

“Kar-go’s first deliveries represent a key milestone for the wider automotive industry.

“We have been working closely with DfT’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), BSI, TFL and our partners at Eurovia UK to ensure that safety is at the heart of everything we do and we are grateful for the support we have received.

“What makes Kar-go magical for me is that we applied artificial intelligence and robotics in a useful and good way. The technology is there when it is needed and out of the way when it isn’t.”

Kar-go has been designed as a green alternative to diesel delivery vans, which will enable logistics companies and retailers to keep delivery costs down, while providing a more convenient customer experience by delivering on-demand.

It focuses on the small, shoe-boxed sized parcels, where delivery costs can account for up to a third of the cart value, putting increasing pressure on margins for both retailers and logistics companies. The vehicle will be able to drive itself to and from the sender and recipient’s address and will hand-over the parcel autonomously using its on-board robotics.

All elements of the vehicle’s operation from the cameras to the software logs and the vehicle’s position can be monitored and controlled remotely. Kar-go uses artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate itself and perform many of its functions, with the specialist form of AI developed and patented in the UK by Academy of Robotics.

It uses algorithms based on evolution which can learn and ‘self-optimise’ in real-time to make the best decisions and ensure that multiple fail-safe layers are in place.

Academy of Robotics received funding from UK Research and Innovation as part of the Government’s modern industrial strategy to help scale up their technology and will begin setting up further deliveries in London and the surrounding area before the end of the year.

The debut on UK roads has been welcomed by the Department for Transport. Concludes Transport Minister Rachel Maclean:

“Autonomous delivery vehicles, such as Kar-go, can offer safer and speedier delivery of medical supplies to those who need it the most.

“The UK is well-placed as a science superpower to lead the world in this area and I’m delighted to support projects that drive green innovation, promote a clean transport future and help the economy.”

Chris Price
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