Online supermarket, Ocado, is starting trial deliveries with driverless vans in conjunction with technology firm Oxbotica.
The company, which makes over 170,000 grocery deliveries per week, believes that the self-driving vans may improve safety and increase the speed of orders. Lower staffing costs also mean that the development has the potential to reduce customer costs, however during trials, humans will remain in the vans to help carry shopping to the door and take control of the vehicle in an emergency.
The online grocer is working with technology firm Oxbotica to trial the autonomous vans. The Oxford-based company is already testing self-driving vehicles to carry passengers in two government-backed trials, and is best known for being the robotics company behind the Greenwich Gateway driverless bus trials which took place earlier this year.
The Ocado delivery vehicle features eight individual compartments that can be packed with a customer’s shopping. The compartment doors light up upon arrival to indicate where a customer’s shopping is contained. Customers will need to greet the delivery vans themselves and carry their shopping inside.
The online retailer, which also delivers goods for the supermarket chain Morrisons, is already known for its in-vehicle technology. Ocado has already developed vehicle-to-vehicle systems that constantly monitor traffic flow, vehicle speed and fuel consumption, to automatically plan optimal routes for its drivers and share data with its customer fulfilment centres. This helps the company achieve a 99% success rate in meeting customers’ one-hour delivery slots.