To date, most of the attention regarding autonomous vehicles has been has centred on driverless cars and buses, but now the London Borough of Hounslow is claiming to be first off the grid to trial autonomous electric delivery vehicles on its roads.
The vehicle, the Kar-go, has been designed by UK startup Academy of Robotics, and is on track to be the first custom-built autonomous delivery vehicle to travel on the country’s roads. 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 for Hounslow Highways, part of Eurovia UK, the holding company for businesses maintaining the road network across the UK.
Academy of Robotics designed and custom-built the Kar-go along with the software that controls and runs the vehicle and its integration with the command hub, and says its work enables secure remote monitoring and supervision of the vehicle.
The Kar-go drives itself to and from the sender’s and recipient’s addresses and will perform parcel hand-over autonomously using on-board robotics. As well as delivering prescriptions to care homes, Kar-go will deliver equipment to a Eurovia UK works site when lockdown measures ease. Eurovia will also explore the potential use of Kar-go’s vision system for the early detection of faults in the road.
“We are delighted to be supporting this trial by providing an opportunity to work in a live carriageway environment,” said Eurovia UK innovation director Yogesh Patel. “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 [artificial intelligence], design and entrepreneurial skills. We both bring something important to the trial, which could, ultimately, revolutionise last-mile deliveries and enable us to rethink highways.”
Academy of Robotics said the technology offers significant environmental and health benefits and presents a green alternative to diesel delivery vans, enabling logistics companies and retailers to keep delivery costs down, while providing the convenience of on-demand delivery.
Hanif Khan, cabinet member for transport at Hounslow Council, added: “We couldn’t be happier that Hounslow is to be the location for this ground-breaking trial. Harnessing technology and robotics to develop efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions such as the Kar-go delivery vehicle is a great step forward.
“We are keen to support innovative technology as part of our green recovery, supporting industry and making a meaningful contribution towards tackling our climate emergency. We applaud our partner Eurovia for this innovative partnership with Academy of Robotics, which I am sure will go from strength to strength and deliver great benefits for our borough.”