There’s much talk about how driverless vehicles will be able to help with the ‘last mile’ of passenger journeys – for example, by linking public transport services to people’s homes.
But another driverless ‘last mile’ has been demonstrated in the London borough of Greenwich, where Ocado Technology and the GATEway Project have carried out the UK’s first driverless grocery delivery.
Using an electric self-driving van called CargoPod, the partners completed a driverless grocery delivery trial, dropping off groceries to more than a hundred residential customers in the borough’s Royal Arsenal development.
CargoPod is the first self-driving electric cargo vehicle to be developed by project partner Oxbotica.
The firm’s co-founder, Professor Paul Newman, approached Ocado Technology, a division of online-only supermarket Ocado, about testing its latest self-driving technology.
“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.”
The vehicle uses the firm’s Selenium autonomous operating system, which harnesses data from lasers and cameras placed around the vehicle.
When the van arrives at a customer’s stop, one of its eight cargo compartments lights up, allowing the customer to unlock the relevant compartment and retrieve their groceries.
Ocado, which already uses automated warehouse systems, said that the trial allowed it to learn more about the next steps necessary to enable driverless deliveries.
“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’s 10x team.
Simon Tong, Principal Research Scientist (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.”
GATEway is one of several projects taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab at Greenwich – a real-world test environment for evaluating the next generation of connected and autonomous vehicles.
The project is supported by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
“The GATEway project takes us another step closer to seeing self-driving vehicles on UK roads, and has the potential to reduce congestion in urban areas while reducing emissions,” said Business Minister Claire Perry.
“Backed by government, this project firmly establishes the UK as a global centre for developing self-driving innovation.”
Last year, self-driving truck-maker Otto partnered with brewer Anheuser-Busch to deliver a fully-loaded trailer of Budweiser across Colorado, in what the companies said was the first time a self-driving vehicle had shipped commercial cargo.