Self-driving delivery car hits UK roads as government funds multiple AI vehicle projects

The vehicle, developed by the Academy of Robotics, is called the Kar-go. With a range of around 60 miles, analysts expect it could deliver parcels to both city centre addresses as well as locations in the countryside.

Recently, the electric vehicle was deployed in London, where it delivered medical supplies from a pharmacy to a care home.

However, on that occasion, a human ‘driver’ was placed inside and prepared to take the wheel at any time, in accordance with current road laws.

It is thought the level of autonomy – how much the car is left to its own devices – will be increased as time goes on.

The vehicle is designed to focus on parcels roughly the size of shoe boxes.

Further delivery tasks are due to take place in the UK’s capital before the end of this year, with the Government having supplied funding to Academy of Robotics to help develop the tech.

The Department for Transport hailed the robotic car’s first task on UK roads.

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Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “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.”

William Sachiti, founder of Academy of Robotics, claimed: “Kar-go’s first deliveries represent a key milestone for the wider automotive industry.”

The firm says the Kar-go system is “optimised to autonomously drive on un-marked roads making the vehicle perfect for solving the challenge of last mile deliveries in residential areas as well as urban environments”.

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Only last month, the UK Space Agency announced it had launched a new laboratory in which a 5G network would be tasked with coordinating a fleet of driverless cars.

The new lab, called the Darwin SatCom Lab, was launched in cooperation with telecoms provider O2.

It will allow businesses to test out ideas using vehicles connected to one another using 5G systems.

The systems could provide a boost for electric car fleets because 5G is able to transmit data at a much faster rate than 4G systems can.

The UK Space Agency said 5G connectivity helps reduce the length of time it takes for data to be sent and received from 20 milliseconds to just one millisecond.

Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer at O2, said: “We’re delighted to announce that the Darwin SatCom Lab is now open for business at Harwell Campus, allowing companies to put theory into practice and test innovative ideas using our connected and autonomous vehicles.

“It’s the next step in getting autonomous vehicles on the road and making the UK’s transport network greener.

Meanwhile, the government has also backed another self-driving car initiative to get cars traversing a nine-mile route between Oxford’s main railway station and Oxford Parkway station.

Called Project Endeavour, the autonomous driving scheme again required human drivers to sit inside the vehicles and be ready to take over at any time.

However, the government announced a consultation on making hands-free driving legal back in August.

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