You have bought a small product online from your favorite retailer. Your cart value is at £4.99, now you are at the checkout and the delivery fee is an additional £7.99 on top. What do you do?
The scenario above represents a snapshot of one of the largest problems in online retail. With trillions of dollars spent online annually, when you buy something online, a large chunk of the cost of most shopping carts goes towards delivery. Human labor accounts for 80% of the cost of getting the product to your house from the local distribution point. Those in e-commerce and distribution call this last-mile delivery problem.
It is widely agreed by industry leaders that the global solution is to automate the last-mile delivery process, thus completely removing the human cost of delivery.
Academy of Robotics has developed Kar-go ‒ one of the world’s first AI-controlled autonomous vehicles to deliver multiple packages over the last mile to residential areas. Last-mile delivery is a £78bn business and e-commerce customers increasingly expect cheap fast deliveries.
The aim of Kar-go is to remove the need for humans in last-mile delivery, aiming to reduce the cost by as much as 90%.
Kar-go was developed over three years to be able to drive autonomously on unmarked roads. It uses patented technology and AI which is also able to see up to 100m in all directions, including behind parked cars, making the vehicle incredibly safe. Kar-go is also able to deliver packages to specific smartphone locations, rather than simply addresses, ensuring there are no more missed deliveries.
The company uses a “Platform-as-a-service” business model where last-mile autonomous delivery is sold as a service, including, sale or rental of vehicles & infrastructure, Operators’ and maintenance services, Mapping, Server platform and interfaces.
Currently, the business has a waiting list of retailers and logistics companies looking to trial Kar-go and are in discussions to supply several hundred units.
What makes Kar-go unique
At the heart of our innovation, and what creates a large part of the company value, is Kar-go’s OS ‒ the operating system that allows the self-driving, vision, and control systems to operate in a coordinated way. What makes Kar-go OS unique is that it was developed and trained to drive on roads in Europe, many of these roads have no markings, are very narrow and have only space for one vehicle, this is because the roads were originally designed for horses and carts. Almost all existing autonomous vehicle systems are designed to drive in other countries like the USA which have very wide, well-marked, grid-like roads and much easier to drive on. These other existing self-driving systems really struggle to drive autonomously in the UK & Europe.
It is becoming commonplace for big companies to buy small tech companies in billion-dollar acquisitions. These acquisitions are for assets such as the self-driving operating system. A recent example of this being Uber buying self-drive start-up OTTO for their OS and General Motors buying self-drive start-ups Cruise.
Kar-go solves a unique problem and the technology it has developed makes it a very desirable asset. Funds from this round will enable us to build 10 vehicles to use in paid trials with some of Europe’s largest retailers over the coming year. These trials will also provide data which the team will use to adapt the product for all potential use-cases making it more universal, easier to integrate with other platforms and be ready for scaling.
On the Road to Innovation:
● Falls within DfT's Centre for Autonomous Vehicles Code of Practice to allow Kar-Go to be tested on UK roads.
● First full-size prototype vehicle launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2019.
● Working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim, which has made custom cars for over 30 years and will be working with Kar-Go to develop its vehicles in the Pilgrim facility.
● Part of Nvidia’s Inception AI Accelerator program for AI start-ups, allowing Kar-Go to leverage their GPU and AI resources for Driverless Cars (the same driverless technology as Tesla, Mercedes and Audi).
● In discussions with several of Europe’s largest FMCG brands and is working to have a minimum of 6 paid trials later this year.
● Cited by Richard Branson & Virgin as one of the companies to watch in the autonomous car space.
● Several appearances on TV over 200 publications including BBC, Wired, Mail Online, Guardian.