Automotive

Self-driving pod delivers groceries to online supermarket customers

Self-driving pod delivers groc...
The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
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Oxbotica's cloud-based fleet management software is used to schedule the CargoPod deliveries
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Oxbotica's cloud-based fleet management software is used to schedule the CargoPod deliveries
A trained safety driver goes along for the ride, to take control if the CargoPod gets into trouble
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A trained safety driver goes along for the ride, to take control if the CargoPod gets into trouble
When the CargoPod arrives at a customer's address, a button opens the CargoPod locker for access to groceries
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When the CargoPod arrives at a customer's address, a button opens the CargoPod locker for access to groceries
Customer number 5, your CargoPod delivery has arrived
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Customer number 5, your CargoPod delivery has arrived
The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
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The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
A trained safety driver goes along for the ride, to take control if the CargoPod gets into trouble
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A trained safety driver goes along for the ride, to take control if the CargoPod gets into trouble
Cameras on the front of the CargoPod help the electric vehicle to navigate without the need for GPS
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Cameras on the front of the CargoPod help the electric vehicle to navigate without the need for GPS
A laser on the side of the CargoPod is used for obstacle avoidance
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A laser on the side of the CargoPod is used for obstacle avoidance
Cameras on the back of the CargoPod help the electric vehicle to navigate without the need for GPS
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Cameras on the back of the CargoPod help the electric vehicle to navigate without the need for GPS
The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
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The electric CargoPod was developed for the Ocado trial by Oxbotica
The CargoPod delivering groceries to Ocado customers in the Greenwich area of London
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The CargoPod delivering groceries to Ocado customers in the Greenwich area of London

Online supermarket Ocado in the closing stages of a two week grocery delivery trial, where customers in residential areas of Greenwich, London, get their shopping delivered by a self-driving electric van called the CargoPod. Developed by Oxbotica for the experiment, the vehicle uses sensors and software to make its way to more than a hundred customers taking part in the trial without the need for GPS.

The real-world trial, which ends on Friday, is the result of a collaboration between the GATEway project (a research initiative looking at zero emission last mile delivery and mobility solutions), Ocado Technology and Oxbotica.

The vehicle build project began last December and the bodywork was completed in April this year. The base of the electric CargoPod is a modified Garia Utility City vehicle, upgraded to include cameras and lasers feeding data into a computer running Oxbotica's Selenium autonomous operating system, allowing it to navigate on its own.

The fully road legal prototype vehicle doesn't rely on GPS to get around, but cameras that help determine where it is and lasers for obstacle avoidance. It can transport up to 128 kg (280 lb) of groceries per trip and get up to a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h), though it was limited to 5 mph during the trial due to local speed restrictions. Also for legal and safety reasons, a trained safety driver in the front will take control should the vehicle get into trouble.

Customer number 5, your CargoPod delivery has arrived
Customer number 5, your CargoPod delivery has arrived

The CargoPod's batteries are sufficient to keep it rolling all day, and a full recharge takes 3 hours, but 40 percent capacity can be reached in 1.5 hours if needed.

Ocado created a separate website for trial customers to order their CargoPod-delivered goods, with details sent on to Oxbotica's cloud-based fleet management system to schedule autonomous delivery. When the goods arrive at a customer's door, a button on the side of the vehicle is pushed to open the appropriate locker.

"The vehicle locks itself automatically after a delivery has been made and remains locked until the next delivery," Ocado's Alex Voica told us. "The customer or the customer service representative can unlock the vehicle remotely or manually, depending on their preference."

Can the wider Ocado customer base expect to have their groceries delivered by a self-driving electric van any time soon? Ocado says not, the trial is just that – an experiment. The company is using the project to look into "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."

You can see the a cabin view of the delivery Pod in action in the first video below. The second video offers an outside view, and shows customers retrieving their groceries from a locker.

Sources: Oxbotica, Ocado

UK's First Autonomous Deliveries - CargoPod

UK's first driverless grocery delivery

3 comments
habakak
So many issues with this. Dealing with people will be the biggest problem. Some people will expect someone to carry the delivery to their doorstep or even into their house. Or would want to inspect the packages first. Or would not want to go out to pick up when it's raining or very cold. This service will have to be so extensive and cover so many scenarios which would require a lot of labor. It would only work for a smaller subset of people. And I think they know this and that is why it's only an experiment.
Bob Flint
"Knows where it is and what's around it and where it's going" Then why at the 1:30 mark it almost runs into a pedestrian wandering in the middle of the road, after which the pod does an awkward U-turn & starts going back around the 2:00 mark? Could it go any slower, and btw the last mile in this case could easily have been done by that able-bodied slightly overweight woman on a bicycle with much less technology and cost, not to mention health benefits and zero emissions as compared to the manufacturing, & maintenance of the pod system.
Bob Flint
The speed restrains probably due to wandering people in the middle of the roadway, is this a retirement area where certain hazards abound.