Ocado trials self-driving deliveries in London

Ocado is the latest retailer to try out driverless deliveries, using Oxbotica's CargoPod as part of the government's GATEway Project, led by transport research firm TRL.

The trials took place in Greenwich, where the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is focused and takes on the "last mile" challenge, which addresses how to get goods to customers more efficiently, linking between distribution and transport hubs without generating emissions or noise.

"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," said Simon Tong, principal research scientist for TRL and technical lead for the GATEway project.

"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."

Oxbotica's CargoPod runs on the company's autonomous platform, Selenium, which offers real-time navigation around obstacles and people. The autonomous pods can carry up to 128kg worth of groceries, making them well-suited to transporting goods.

"We are always looking to come up with unique, innovative solutions to the real-world challenge of delivering groceries in densely-populated urban environments," David Sharp, Head of 10x department at Ocado Technology said. "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."

This is the third trial conducted by the government and industry funded GATEway project, with its previous tests including the transportation of people around the Greenwich area in vehicles provided by Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica.

"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."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.