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The race is on to introduce driverless delivery vehicles

The race is on to introduce driverless delivery vehicles

08 January 2021

The race is on to implement driverless deliveries in cities globally. In the US, Walmart will use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas starting in 2021. The retailer has been collaborating with Gatik on a delivery pilot for 18 months and the next stage is to remove the safety driver from their autonomous box trucks.

Gatik, based in Palo Alto and Toronto, outfitted several multitemperature box trucks with sensors and software to enable autonomous driving. Since 2019, the vehicles have racked up 70,000 miles operating a two-mile route from a fulfilment store in Arkansas. So far, the vehicles have operated in autonomous mode, but with a safety driver. In 2021, they plan on expanding to a second location in Louisiana, where trucks with safety drivers will begin delivering items from a “live” Walmart store to a designated pickup location 20 miles away where customers can retrieve their orders.

Walmart is working with a variety of self-driving companies in its search for the best fit for the company’s massive retail and delivery operations.

In November 2020, California gave the green light for the State’s first commercial driverless delivery service. Robotics start-up Nuro plans to start its driverless delivery operations early this year. It previously tested its R2 vehicles in the state in April 2020, but the permit will now let it charge users for its service. The firm's vehicles will be limited to 35mph (56km/h) and will be restricted to operating in "fair weather" conditions.

Britain's first robot delivery vehicle completed its maiden journey on London roads. Kar-go delivery vehicle globally debuted at 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed and completed its first delivery of medical supplies to Hounslow, London. The vehicle uses a unique 'vision system' to manoeuvre along streets and has an electric range of 60 miles, which its developers say is more than the average delivery round.

Kar-go is designed to carry small goods only. The company claim Kar-go can contribute to a reduction in city-centre emissions as diesel vans will no longer be needed to make multiple stops for small deliveries.

Under current UK laws, vehicles always need a human occupant on board.

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

'We have been working closely with Department for Transport's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, British Standards Institution, Transport for London and our partners at Eurovia UK to ensure that safety is at the heart of everything we do and we are grateful for the support we have received.”

The debut on UK roads has been welcomed by the Department for Transport.

Under-Secretary of State for Future of Transport, Rachel Maclean 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'm delighted to support projects that drive green innovation, promote a clean transport future and help the economy.”

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