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Meals on autonomous wheels

07/07/2017 – News / Technology / Oxbotica / Ocado / GATEway Project / UK

Self-driving car start-up Oxbotica and online supermarket giant Ocado are undertaking the UK’s first autonomous grocery delivery trials, in London’s Greenwich neighbourhood.


The GATEway Project with Ocado Technology – a division of Ocado, the world’s largest online-only supermarket – has completed the UK’s first trials of an autonomous CargoPod vehicle around the Berkeley Homes, Royal Arsenal Riverside development in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The real world trials involve the CargoPod self-driving delivery van – developed by start-up Oxbotica – operating in a residential environment and delivering grocery orders to over 100 customers.


Taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is a world-leading research programme, led by firm TRL (Transport Research Ltd) 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.


The CargoPod vehicles are guided by Oxbotica’s state-of-the-art autonomy software system Selenium, which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. The pod is able to carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time.


Uniquely, the focus of the study is both on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment. The latest trials with the GATEway Project – the third of four such test runs – is exploring the public’s perceptions and understanding of driverless delivery vehicles. Ocado Technology is using the trials 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.


While CargoPod’s deliveries have been limited to the Royal Arsenal area in Greenwich as part of the GATEway project, the research findings will help guide the wider roll-out of autonomous vehicles – and, in turn, play an important role in cutting inner city congestion and air pollution in the future. 


The trial is run in partnership with ‘Digital Greenwich’, an initiative that has established Greenwich internationally as a flagship ‘smart city’, where new technologies are being developed and tested in real, complex urban environments. Furthermore, GATEway is just one of several projects taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab at Greenwich – an open, real world, validated test environment for the evaluation of the next generation of connected and autonomous vehicles.


“Last mile delivery is a growing challenge as our cities become denser and more congested,” noted Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica. “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.”

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