The UK’s first custom-built self-driving delivery vehicle made its landmark journey earlier this week (10 November), delivering medication from a pharmacy in Hounslow to a care home.
The autonomous car – named Kar-go by its designers – uses artificial intelligence to navigate itself to and from the recipient’s address and offers contact-free delivery of medications.
The robot car, created by UK start-up the Academy of Robotics, can also sort and assign packages to recipients while on the move.
The company has said it hopes to also introduce deliveries from a depot to work sites.
Taizun Hassanali, owner of Hounslow East Pharmacy – the pharmacy involved in the pilot ride – told the Pharmacist that he would consider using autonomous delivery cars to deliver medications, for both environmental and financial reasons.
‘It was an exciting project to be a part of. And I would very happily use robot delivery cars for my business in the future,’ he said.
‘The fact it is electronic means there are no emissions given off which would be a big plus. I also like the idea of being able to deliver prescriptions at any time of the day, including during out-of-hours when our drivers are not working, as this would give us an edge on our competitors like online pharmacies and Amazon.’
The robot will keep delivery costs down by using electric as an alternative to diesel, while also helping companies provide an on-demand service, the designers said.
Rachel Maclean, transport minister, 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 am delighted to support projects that drive green innovation, promote a clean transport future and help the economy.’
William Sachiti, CEO and founder of Academy of Robotics, said: ‘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.’
He added: ‘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.’