UK’s first autonomous grocery delivery trials completed in Greenwich


The TRL-led GATEway Project, together with Ocado Technology (a division of the online-only supermarket), has completed the UK’s first trials of a self-driving grocery delivery van in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in London.

The real-world trials have seen an autonomous CargoPod vehicle operating in a residential environment, delivering grocery orders to over one hundred customers around the Royal Arsenal Riverside development. Taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) aims to demonstrate the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for last-mile deliveries and mobility, seamlessly connecting existing distribution and transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using zero emission, low noise transport systems.

Developed by Oxbotica as part of the project, CargoPod is guided by the company’s state-of-the-art Selenium software system, which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. The third of four trials within GATEway, the trials are exploring the public’s perceptions and understanding of driverless delivery vehicles. The focus of this study is both on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment.

With CargoPod’s ability to carry a total of 282 lb (128kg) of groceries, Ocado is using the trials to explore the logistics and practicalities of deploying self-driving vehicles as part of the last-mile offering for its Smart Platform, an end-to-end solution for providing retailers with a shortcut for moving online. The research findings will also help guide the wider roll-out of autonomous vehicles that may eventually play an important role in cutting inner city congestion and air pollution.

“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,” explained Simon Tong, principal research scientist at TRL and technical lead on the 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.”

David Sharp, head of Ocado’s 10x department, said, “This project is part of the ongoing journey to be at the edge of what is practical, and offer our Smart Platform customers new and exciting solutions for last-mile deliveries.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).