Kar-go Delivery Bot begins contactless delivery trials to care homes in the UK
Kar-go, an autonomous delivery vehicle designed by British start-up, Academy of Robotics, becomes the first custom-built autonomous delivery vehicle to travel on the roads in the UK.
Designed to offer a contact-free form of delivery, the company has chosen to make its first deliveries from pharmacies to care homes and will later introduce deliveries from a depot to work sites, working closely with partners Eurovia UK, who maintain and improve much of the UK’s road network, including in Hounslow, Greater London.
To ensure greater control of the interaction and operation of the system, Academy of Robotics designed and custom-built the vehicle Kar-go along with the software which controls and runs the vehicle and also the integration with the Command Hub. From the Command Hub they have instant, secure access to remote monitoring and supervision of the vehicle while it is in autonomous mode.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “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.”
Reducing harmful emissions
As an electric vehicle, the rollout of this technology offers significant environmental and health benefits. According to the DfT’s Road to Zero report, 33% 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.
Keeping delivery costs down
Kar-go presents a green alternative to diesel delivery vans, which will enable logistics companies and retailers to keep delivery costs down, whilst providing a more convenient customer experience by delivering on demand. Kar-go focuses on the small shoe-boxed sized parcels, where delivery could account for a third of the cart value, putting increasing pressure on margins for both retailers and logistics companies.
A complete last-mile delivery solution
The Kar-go vehicle will be driving itself to and from the sender and recipient’s address and will perform parcel hand-over autonomously using its on-board robotics. Beginning with semi-autonomous deliveries, the level of autonomy will be gradually increased. In accordance with current legislation, Kar-go will also have a safety driver on board who can take over at any time and the company will also offer an added layer of safety through its Command Hub.
From the Command Hub, 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. The diagnostics data transmitted to the Command Hub will also offer an early warning system alerting the team to any emerging issues.
William Sachiti, CEO and Founder of Academy of Robotics commented: “Alongside our partners at Eurovia UK we have been working closely with DfT’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and key London stakeholders. This is to ensure that safety is at the heart of everything we do and we are grateful for the support we have received”
During Lockdown the Command Hub can be operated from remote office locations. When lockdown measures ease, the Command Hub for deliveries in Hounslow will be located in the London Borough of Hounslow with the support of Eurovia UK as part of a partnership agreed last November to accelerate the development of Kar-go’s technology. This partnership aims to promote innovation in road maintenance to improve the overall performance of the UK highway network.
As part of this initial series of deliveries, Kar-go will also be delivering equipment to a Eurovia UK works site when lockdown measures ease. Eurovia will also be exploring the potential to use Kar-go’s vision system for the early detection of faults in the road.
As Yogesh Patel, Innovation Director for Eurovia UK explains; “We are delighted to be supporting this trial, by providing an opportunity to work in a live carriageway environment. Our teams deliver highway maintenance and improvement schemes up and down the country, so we know highways. This partnership is about marrying our expertise on the highway, with Academy of Robotics’ expertise in AI, design and entrepreneurial skills. We both bring something important to the trial, which could, ultimately revolutionise last-mile deliveries and enable us to ‘re-think highways.’”
Advanced, evolutionary technology
Using artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate itself and perform many of its functions, Kar-go’s specialist form of AI was 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.
These first autonomous road deliveries follow years of data gathering and testing using both simulators, real world environments and live technology trials in locations like rural Wales and Surrey in the UK and will focus on the arrival and departure procedures, where no human contact is involved right up to receipt of the package.
Recognising the potential of the technology 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.
William Sachiti, CEO and Founder of Academy of Robotics commented: “What makes Kar-go magical for me is that we applied artificial intelligence and robotics in a useful, but good way: the technology is there when it is needed and out of the way when it isn’t. Unlike many iterations of artificial intelligence systems on the internet today that want something from you or want to keep you in some app or drive you to make buying decisions, we don’t.
“As complex as Kar-go is, its function is very simple, a very complex machine performing a simple task, only when required. To me that is good and that is an AI assisted future I would want to live in.”