Self-driving delivery cars coming to UK roads by 2018

A driverless vehicle designed to deliver goods to UK homes is set to take to the road next year after the successful conclusion of an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Developed by engineers at The University of Aberystwyth-based startup The Academy of Robotics, the vehicle, Kar-Go, is road-legal, and capable of driving on roads without any specific markings without human intervention.

Kar-Go has successfully raised £321,000 through Crowdcube – 107% of its goal – meaning the company now has the funds to build its first commercially ready vehicles. This amount will also, according to William Sachiti, Academy of Robotics founder and CEO, be matched by “one of the largest tech companies” in the world.

Images courtesy of Academy of Robotics

The Academy of Robotics has already built and tested a prototype version of Kar-Go, and is working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim to produce the fully street-legal version.

The duo has already gained legal approval from the UK government’s Centre for Autonomous Vehicles, meaning the cars will be able to immediately operate on UK roads once built.

The aim of Kar-Go is to partner with suppliers of everyday consumer goods to significantly reduce the cost of deliveries, and the company’s goal in this area is ambitious: Sachiti believes Kar-Go could reduce delivery costs by as much as 98%.

Whether companies go for the offering remains to be seen, but the company says it is in early stage discussions with several of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in Europe, which would likely include the corporations behind some of the most recognisable brands found in UK supermarkets.

While some will be sceptical, Sachiti is keen to drive the company to success, and already has an impressive track record in future-focused business development. He previously founded Clever Bins – the solar powered digital advertising bins found in many of the nation’s cities – and digital concierge service MyCityVenue – now part of SecretEscapes.

“As a CEO, it is one of my primary duties to make sure Kar-go remains a fantastic investment, this can only be achieved by our team producing spectacular results. We can’t wait to show the world what we produce,” he said.

“We have a stellar team who are excited to have begun working on what we believe will probably be the best autonomous delivery vehicle in the world. For instance, our multi-award winning lead vehicle designer is part of the World Championship winning Brabham Formula One design team, and also spent years as a Design Engineer at McLaren.”

India says risk to jobs is too great to allow driverless cars to thrive in the country

India’s minister for road transport, highways and shipping has said that the country will not support driverless cars as the threat they pose to jobs is too great.

According to Hindustan Times and The Indian Express, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has said that driverless technology will not be allowed in India because of the fear that it will increase unemployment.

“We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this,” said Gadkari.

“We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs.”

Nitin Gadkari. Image courtesy of Gppande. Featured image courtesy of Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

Gadkari went on to say that although driverless technology wasn’t right for India, electric vehicles do have a place within the country.

However, the minister said that he wanted electric vehicles to be made in India and would not be reducing import duty on e-vehicles or their parts.

“I have told chiefs of the auto companies recently that world-class electric vehicles can very well be manufactured in India. They are welcome to make them here under Make in India, we will not reduce the import duties,” said Gadkari.

In 2015, during his visit to the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the company’s headquarters in San Jose.

During their meeting, the two discussed how batteries and solar panels could be the future of electricity generation for India, as well as, according to The Indian Express, the possibility of manufacturing affordable cars for India.

It was thought that India could have become a large market for Tesla as well as other driverless cars manufacturers. However, that hope now seems to have been extinguished.

“I saw in Sweden a 70-year-old man was driving a taxi. There, they have less people. Here, we have more people and they need jobs. Driverless cars will take away those jobs. I am certain on this issue,” said Gadkari.