Innovative autonomous car to support highway management

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The Academy of Robotics and Eurovia UK have announced plans for a national partnership to trial the use of Kar-go’s autonomous vehicle technology to support rural highway management

The partnership will also aim to accelerate the ‘training’ of Kar-go to navigate on unmarked roads in the UK.

Academy of Robotics is the startup behind Kar-go, Europe’s first road-based autonomous delivery vehicle.

Originally developed to reduce both the financial and environmental costs of last-mile parcel delivery, Eurovia UK recognised its potential for use in infrastructure and urban development work.

Eurovia UK is keen to test the Kar-go technology to automate the delivery of small plant equipment, tools, materials and other components to and from a highway work sites. It also has the potential to use data collected by Kar-go as it travels to determine the condition of roads.

Eurovia UK, a specialist in maintaining and improving roads and public realm infrastructure will help Academy of Robotics to scale their training of autonomous vehicles. This will be enabled by accessing digital camera data gathered by Eurovia’s fleet in the UK, which covers over 50,000 kms of UK roads.

The trial will initially focus on the UK, but as a global business operating in 15 countries, the deal offers significant potential for international expansion.

Understanding hazards – shadows vs. potholes

Academy of Robotics have been able to address the challenge of environmental variability and ‘noise’ caused by shadows and bright reflections. This means that Kar-go’s operating system is already able to understand the difference between features such as cracks, puddles, potholes and shadows.

William Sachiti, CEO of Academy of Robotics, said: “To date, most autonomous vehicle training and testing has taken place on well-marked roads or specially designated test centres, but these areas rarely reflect real-world conditions.

“We believe that training our vehicles to operate on the widest range of real-world conditions is critical to preparing them for the unpredictable elements vehicles may face in the ‘real world’.

“The AI can process the data at immense speeds, so one of the biggest challenges holding back this technology is the ability to get hold of enough data on diverse conditions to train vehicles at scale.”

The technology Academy of Robotics has developed is able to detect not only the potential hazards in the path such as the edge of a road in snowy conditions, but also the likely causes of deterioration on road surfaces.

This collaboration will ultimately offer a proactive, ‘smart’ approach to detection of both highway defects and hazard prevention as well as improvements in highway management.

As Kar-go vehicles are electric, the partnership also supports Eurovia UK’s work in investing in projects that support green growth: developing a greener fleet and reducing CO2 emissions.

Scott Wardrop, chief executive of Eurovia UK, added: “We were impressed by the sophistication of the technology developed by Academy of Robotics and the professionalism of such a small startup team.

“We have reviewed a number of autonomous vehicle solutions, but a critical component for us in developing this partnership was the technology’s ability to manage the complexity of recognising different road surfaces and their absolute commitment to sustainable innovation – investing in the future.”

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