Kar-Go Delivery Bot to Extend Trials in the U.K.
February 1, 2021
U.K.-based Academy of Robotics said it will expand its human-contact-free delivery program with its Kar-go delivery robot with further trials in Surrey later this month. Surrey is the second region in the U.K. to see Britain’s first custom-built autonomous delivery vehicle on the county’s roads after the company began road trials in November 2020 in Hounslow, London.
The new trials will begin supporting a range of small, local businesses in Surrey, making deliveries from shops to residential addresses. The Hounslow program, which uses the Kar-go delivery robot to collect medicines from pharmacies and deliver them to care homes and residential addresses, will continue. The company said it has a series of additional trial locations planned for Spring 2021.
The Kar-go is an electric vehicle designed to reduce the cost of last-mile delivery, as well as cut harmful emissions. Its operating system has been designed to navigate unmarked roads outside of city centers, so it can make deliveries in more rural and suburban areas.
“All too often, new technology benefits only those living in cities, and people living in more remote or suburban areas are left out,” said William Sachiti, founder and CEO of Academy of Robotics (pictured). “As a company founded in rural Aberystwyth, we were very conscious of this issue so we designed our AI to work where it could deliver the greatest benefit. So, the first areas we are rolling this out to are typical British suburban locations like Surrey.”
The company’s proposal to make medical products the focus of Kar-go’s first deliveries was given funding from U.K. Research and Innovation as a part of the government’s industrial strategy. “Autonomous delivery vehicles, such as Kar-go, can offer safer and speedier delivery of medical supplies to those who need it the most,” said Rachel Maclean, Transport Minister. “The U.K. 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.”
In late January, the Academy of Robotics team began driving the delivery robot in Surrey to scan proposed delivery routes in preparation for using the vehicle to make semi-autonomous deliveries in mid-February. The AI is designed with multiple fail-safe layers, and in line with current regulations for testing autonomous vehicles, there will be a safety driver in the vehicle at all times. The company said it will gradually increase the degree of autonomy used as the trial progresses.
The company was founded by graduates and professors who met at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, and the company has developed and patented a specialist form of AI for Kar-go’s operating system. It uses algorithms based on evolution, which can learn and self-optimize in real-time to make the best decisions, the company said. More details on the project can be found at the company’s website.