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Hi. Welcome. My name’s Gavin Anderson, the founder of an organisation called N2 Collective. Normally, I’m knee deep in branding and digital solutions for clients, but one of my passions is a machine learning and deep learning. And that brings me to robots on the road. Why do we need robots on the road? The delivery. The online delivery market has exploded, not just during lockdown. This this chart goes back to 2014. So we could see that the volume of deliveries almost quadrupled. That puts these on the road. Lots of vans, dirty diesel driven vans. Yes, some are electric, some are well-maintained.

We have the big brands that probably do well-maintained their trucks. But the problem is it puts lots of vehicles on the road in this shot, which is what you’d recognise from if you were in the U.K., you know, the M25 over. You know, almost 40% of the vehicles in this show are commercial, small commercial vehicles. And also we’ve seen this. You know, how many times in your own street have you actually seen more than one delivery van turn up to do deliveries? We all like our delivery drivers. You know, I’ve got to know my my my Amazon Prime driver quite well over the last couple of years. He’s a he’s almost a regular at our house. So there’s nothing against our cheery delivery drivers. But we do have to actually talk about the elephant in the room. And that’s diesel, there’s pollution.

All these extra vans on the road, which are on average about between 55 to 75% empty. They are driving on the road. So if we multiply all those different deliveries coming to our street on a daily basis and all the rest, it’s not very efficient. So it’s a deeply inefficient. One of my favourite sayings from one of my favourite men. We can’t solve problems with the same thinking we use to create them. So how do we solve this? Well, one of the solutions we put forward is air delivery from drones. Company called wing the ground operation and it says the Australia, Finland, the United States.

You can get a cup of coffee in 6 minutes. Dropped dropped to your front garden. It will never happen to UK because we have noise abatement laws that sit at a local level. We would just and also the UK is not really logistically we have too many tall blocks of flats, etc. It’s not a solution. So what is a solution? Make cargo. Cargo is an autonomous autonomous delivery robot. It’s not connected to CPS. It’s not connected to wi fi. It’s also not designed to drive from Land’s End to John O’Groats. So they’re designed to work within a five or ten mile radius of the depot. So if you imagine the big truck goes to the riding depot, the riding depot unloads it into lots of little cargos.

The car goes with zero emissions and also the cargoes are actually small enough to be legally used on cycle tracks, but large enough to actually go into the carriageways. They have a very small footprint, smaller than a mini. You pie in the sky, you might say this is something of the future. Well, now, two years ago, we launched it at Goodwood. It seemed appropriate. Cargo was born out of the some of the research and development that was done for the Mars lunar probe. Mars Rover, sorry. And the University of Wales. So Goodwood, the famous Hill at Goodwood. That’s where we decided to launch. That’s where we decided to drive. Because it is a British invention with British technology. I’m not going to of going down the Union Jack Road here, but I am actually calling out the recognition of the University of Wales in their science programme that’s now moved into vehicles. This has been developed and delivered by a company called the Academy of Robotics. And to the point of is it pie in the sky? This is a picture of the first ever delivery robot in the UK getting a registration plate to be able to be driven on the road. Robots are on the road. This one’s been a pilot on the southeast for the last few months. You can see cargo with its number plate. Cargo does have to have a physical driver inside them at the moment because the law states, even with testing, that a human driver must be able to take over control of the vehicle at any point. And we’re going to come back to that a little bit later. So how does cargo work? Cargo hubs can load in about 40 parcels. 80% of the world. Parcels are about the size of a cardboard box that you buy your trainers in. So imagine you load in the 40 parcels, the vehicle.

The robot then texts everybody with a parcel saying, I’m going to be there at 10% and be there at 20 to 1 to make sure that you’re going to be in. And if you’re not in, you can actually say, well, actually, I’ll be around the corner in the pub, or should I say cafe cafes, probably more political crowds. I’ll be round the corner of the cafe. Cargo can come and find you. Did you use your mobile phone similar to the Apple Pay or NFC? Touch your mobile phone in the back of it. The rear opens up in that one compartment that is your goods is delivered.

This is William, actually the founder of Academy of Robotics. And this was the pilot down at Hounslow, where we were delivering medicine to all people’s homes during lockdown. The cargo is not the only game in town. You know, I hear you say this is Nero. Nero’s been on the roads in California for a while. Yeah, it’s been doing very well. But again, it needs the jeeps and it needs to be fine. I’ll touch on why having vehicles connected can be a bit of a challenge. The Google car. Yes. And they didn’t do more of the design. But hey, this is the first generation, all credit to what Google are doing. But again, it’s it’s something that has to connect to real time data, trying to design cars that can drive from one end of the country to the other when actually the things that they’ve done, the deliveries, the the pharmacies, your groceries, your Amazon Prime’s, they don’t need to drive across the country.

They don’t need to carry four people. They need to carry some parcels. So let’s touch on the connected car. Why? Why is the connected car not so good? Well, first thing is self-driving cars will be connected to the cloud. You have to make sure of your security, because if you’re driving down the autobahn in Germany and your dashboard flashes that your electric cars get the firmware update. I think you probably want to be feel fairly secure.

That is Volkswagen that’s doing the firmware update to your car and not somebody else. So security is one challenge, especially with the robots. This was something this was you may know this one. This was a couple of years ago where they they hacked a self-driving car, drove into a ditch, turned the brakes on, etc.. I should say this was a malicious hack. This was an uninvited one. The the guys were actually in the car with their laptops. But it does show back then the cars were vulnerable still. I think today there’s still probably a level of security around updating the remote that connexions to the cars. So what makes non connected robots different while they learn? So I was going back to the point of where your robots aren’t, for you’re driving from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Robots are for delivering within the five or the ten miles of a depot. Think of having a Waitrose in Redding and you have five cargos or five robots in the basement. You can load up your deliveries.

They can head off for the day, do local deliveries. And as you can see by some of this imagery, you know, the car actually or the vehicle learns its environment and every day it learns more. So it learns some traffic lights, extra new traffic works on the high street. It learns that, you know, you know, Millpond Close is closed for the next two weeks. This is something that smart cars don’t do. So your Google cars and all your tests assess what’s in front of them and make a decision. A robot will already have a bank of knowledge about the area that they’re in and then make a decision. So no surprises. So this was this is a rather technical matter. But basically what you see here is this is the first Google car crash. So a Google testing car with Google cars wanting to turn left. It looks up the inside lane and sees a bus coming. It thinks, okay, yeah, that’s fine. The bus. There’s enough time for the bus to stop. It pulled out and the bus hit it. Who pulls out in front of a bus. You’re challenging human nature. They’re so connected. Cars have to be very, very smart. Robots just need to know where they are and what they’re doing. Because we’re not asking robots at the moment to drive from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

This was cargo doing some deliveries, the pharmacy deliveries. I can’t talk about robots without talking about one of my favourite ones, which is the starship. This if you come up to Milton Keynes, I live very close to Munchkins. You’ll see these little characters on the road fully autonomous, the co-op’s piloting them. Joe At the moment, elderly customers can put their shopping in one of these units and this unit will head off and deliver it to their house. Also, home deliveries, food deliveries, these are very common on the streets of Milton Keynes now, partly because we have cycleways and roadways. So it’s easier for them to get route access. And if you need to deliver multiple things again, you’re that hub and spoke model. We can actually move a or you can move a vehicle with robots to an area as long as they know that area. They can all be distributed out of one vehicle, go to the local deliveries, all back into one vehicle, and you go on sending one vehicle instead of ten, 15 or 20. We go back to that multiple vehicles turning up in your street every day. I spoke about how robots have to fight. The current law for the UK says you have to be able to take control of an autonomous vehicle at any moment in time. We’re still not allowed full autonomous vehicle driving on the road at the moment. This is the command centre, Athena, which carries cargo, the working prototype that does most most of the pilots at the moment. Athena basically has a seat and a control system in it. So you can actually see what every cargo is doing and you can take over. I mean, yes, think PlayStation, but think a bit more high tech. And yes, that is the British army. And they are sitting at the controls.

The applications for robots with no humans in them, they’ll have a deep understanding of where they are. An area that they’ve been taught is certainly for the armed forces. You know, non-combat armed forces will be very useful. So cargo on the road with its number plate of normally you black out number plates when you do when you show people slides because you don’t want somebody to copy it. There is only one autonomous robot legally registered in the UK on British roads and you’re looking at it. So are robots on the road? Well, robots are already on the road and they’re on the pavement. So the next time you see one of these robots, be kind to them. They’re helping save the environment. Are they’re making our lives better? Thank you for your time. 

By Max Vince

Max Vince is an intelligent and creative marketer, business administrator and technology enthusiast. She loves to explore new technologies, learn about their capabilities as well as the potential impact they will have on our society in the future.

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