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by Sofia Villegas
12 February 2024
Student start-up hopes to ignite autonomous vehicle revolution

Robots will deliver food from the Kings Buildings café | Alamy

Student start-up hopes to ignite autonomous vehicle revolution

A University of Edinburgh start-up is trialing an autonomous food delivery service. 

Pixconvey will test run the robot by delivering food from the Kings Buildings café to students across the campus. 

It is hoped the trial will lead to a roll-out of the system across settings, including the NHS and airports. 

Ebtehal Alotaibi, founder of the start-up, started the research after she lost her aunt in a car accident caused by driver error in 2014. 

Alotaibi said: “The car accident also claimed the life of my aunt’s husband. She was just 30 and their three children were left without their parents. 

“I did some research and found that 94 per cent of car accidents are caused by human error, so there is a lot of potential for driverless vehicles to be safer.” 

Known as Pixie, the self-driving robots were adapted from the Bayes Centre’s HUSKY model. 

If successful, the trial could make food delivery more affordable and sustainable, Alotaibi claimed. 

 “Getting takeaway food delivered is increasingly expensive, partly due to labour costs and shortages. 

“Where cars are used, it also increases greenhouse gas emissions and, during the pandemic, there were hygiene concerns too. 

“We think Pixconvey can address all these issues – electric vehicles have zero emissions; our business model is an affordable monthly subscription for the restaurant and the robot sanitises food cartons using LED rays.” 

It is hoped that Pixie will be tested on road settings if the campus trial succeeds. 

Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, also supports the project. 

 Currently, the mass deployment of autonomous vehicles on UK roads is under legal scrutiny. 

In November, the UK Government introduced the autonomous vehicles bills to ensure the safe deployment of the technology. 

The bill is going through its final reading in the House of Lords. 

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