Online supermarket Ocado has completed the UK’s first trials of a driverless delivery vehicle. The pilot took place around the Berkeley Homes, Royal Arsenal Riverside development in Greenwich and saw a self-driving delivery van called a CargoPod delivering grocery orders to over one hundred customers.
The trials were part of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) Project, a research programme led by TRL and funded by UK government and industry. It aims to demonstrate the use of autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile’ deliveries and mobility, seamlessly connecting existing distribution and transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using zero-emission, low-noise transport systems.
CargoPod was developed by autonomous vehicle-maker, Oxbotica, and is guided by the company’s autonomy software system Selenium, which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. Looking a little like one of those mobile coffee trucks, it can carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time. For the trial, its speed was limited to 5mph and there were two operatives on board at all times.
“Last mile delivery is a growing challenge as our cities become denser and more congested,” said Oxbotica CEO, Graeme Smith. In this new project, we are working closely with Ocado Technology to deploy our Selenium autonomy system into a novel last-mile delivery application in Greenwich as a part of the GATEway project. This is truly a UK success story about CCAV and Innovate UK enabling a young British company to become established and to be able to demonstrate mature world-class technology capabilities within a real-life dense urban environment.”
For Ocado, the purpose of the trial was to explore the logistics and practicalities of deploying self-driving vehicles as part of the last mile offering for the Ocado Smart Platform, an end-to-end solution for providing bricks and mortar grocery retailers around the world with a shortcut for moving online.
But the study also looked at the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment. This, the third of four trials with the GATEway Project, explored the public’s perceptions and understanding of driverless delivery vehicles.
“We are always looking to come up with unique, innovative solutions to the real-world challenge of delivering groceries in densely-populated urban environments,” said David Sharp, head of Ocado technology’s10x department. “This project is part of the on-going journey to be at the edge of what is practical and offer our Ocado Smart Platform customers new and exciting solutions for last mile deliveries.”