Ocado trials driverless CargoPod for last-mile grocery deliveries
Ocado trials driverless CargoPod for last-mile grocery deliveries

Ocado trials driverless CargoPod for last-mile grocery deliveries

Online grocery retailer Ocado has announced that its Ocado Technology unit has conducted a “very successful” driverless deliveries trial on the streets of the Royal Arsenal area in Greenwich, south-east London.

The trial was conducted in partnership with the Gateway Project, an £8 million research project led by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) in collaboration with Oxbotica (a spin-out company from the Oxford Robotics Institute), Digital Greenwich, Telefonica and others.

Over two weeks, an electric self-driving CargoPod van created by Oxbotica delivered free groceries to over one hundred residents in the area. CargoPod is guided by Oxbotica’s navigation, planning and perception software Selenium and is able to carry a total of 128 kilograms of groceries at a time. The van can cover a distance of 30 kilometers on a single charge, at speeds of up to 40km/h. However on this particular site, it was restricted to 8km/h as it was running on a private road.

Read more: Trial of driverless shuttle kicks off in Greenwich, London

Logistics and practicalities

Ocado Technology says it is using the trials to explore the logistics and practicalities of deploying self-driving vehicles as part of the ‘last mile’ offering for its Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), an end-to-end solution for providing bricks-and-mortar grocery retailers around the world with a shortcut for moving online. The company has been attempting to sell OSP to these retailers for some years now, although progress in this respect has been slow.

There is also the potential for self-driving technology to be used in the customer fulfilment centres from which Ocado customer orders are despatched. These are already highly automated, but Ocado continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in e-commerce logistics.

“Ocado Technology is delighted to have worked in partnership with the Gateway Project to a complete a very successful grocery delivery trial using driverless vehicles,” said David Sharp of Ocado Technology.

“We are always looking to come up with unique, innovative solutions to the real-world challenge of delivering groceries in densely-populated urban environments. 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.”

The Ocado trials took place over two weeks in Greenwich, London

Read more: Online-only retailer Ocado trials robotic arm to speed up orders

Government backing

The Gateway project is supported by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), a unit run jointly by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure the UK is at the forefront of testing and deploying connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

On behalf of TRL, principal research scientist and Gateway technical lead Simon Tong commented: “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.”