Online supermarket Ocado to trial driverless vans
Online supermarket, Ocado, is starting to trial
deliveries with driverless vans in conjunction with technology firm Oxbotica.
The company, which makes more than 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. That helps the company achieve a 99% success rate in
meeting customers’ one-hour delivery slots.
But Paul Clarke,
Ocado’s chief technology officer, told the Mail
on Sunday (4 June 2017) that the company did not expect to remove humans
from its vans any time soon.