Ocado trials driverless grocery delivery

UK researchers are working on a project to deliver groceries using a driverless vehicle.

Online-only supermarket Ocado recently completed a two-week trial which saw a self-driving delivery vehicle, called CargoPod, operating in a residential environment in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, delivering grocery orders to over 100 customers.

It was run in partnership with Digital Greenwich, a smart city initiative that allows new technologies to be tested in real, complex urban environments.

The focus of the study is on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology as well as how it functions alongside people in a residential environment, according to the GATEway project, which is led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

CargoPod, developed by Oxbotica as part of the GATEway project, is guided by autonomy software which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. The pod can carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time.

Ocado Technology is exploring the logistics and practicalities of deploying self-driving vehicles as part of the last-mile offering for its Ocado Smart Platform, an end-to-end solution for providing bricks-and-mortar grocery retailers around the world with a shortcut for moving online.

The research findings are also expected to help guide the wider rollout of autonomous vehicles which, in the future, may play an important role in cutting inner city congestion and air pollution.

Simon Tong, Principal Research Scientist at TRL and technical lead for the GATEway project, said: “The GATEway project is unique in that it considers the effect of automated vehicles on the movement of goods as well as the movement of people. This trial with Ocado Technology provides an ideal platform to help us understand how and where these vehicles could best operate and whether people would accept, trust and like them as an automated delivery service in the city. We envisage that cities could benefit massively if deliveries could be made by quiet, zero emission, automated vehicles when congestion is minimal.”

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