Ocado to roll out autonomous vehicles for grocery delivery
Online grocery shopping company Ocado has announced a partnership with Oxbotica to collaborate on deploying autonomous vehicles for use in its customer fulfilment centre (CFC), as well as last-mile deliveries and even kerb to kitchen robots.
The Ocado/Oxbotica relationship began in 2017, when it conducted a two-week trial using an early prototype delivery vehicle doing autonomous deliveries in Greenwich, London. Since that initial trial, Oxbotica has made significant progress in developing its platform, leading to today’s announcement of a broader relationship that includes both Ocado’s financial investment and a commercial collaboration agreement.
Oxbotica’s two core products are Selenium and Caesium. Selenium is an on-vehicle suite of software that brings full autonomy to a vehicle in a way that is agnostic to both hardware and environment. Caesium is a cloud-based autonomy management system for autonomous fleets. Oxbotica claims its products use an advanced set of AI, machine learning and optimisation technologies.
As part of the deal, Ocado will invest £10m in Oxbotica in its latest equity funding round. It will also kit out its delivery vans and warehouse vehicles with data capture capabilities, including video cameras, LiDAR, RADAR and other sensing devices. Ocado will then make this data available to Oxbotica to train and test its technologies.
For both regulatory and complexity reasons, Ocado expects that the development of vehicles that operate in low-speed urban areas or in restricted access areas, such as inside its CFC buildings, may become a reality sooner than fully-autonomous deliveries to consumers’ homes.
However, all aspects of autonomous vehicle development will be within the scope of this collaboration. Ocado expects to see the first prototypes of some early use cases for autonomous vehicles within two years.
Says Alex Harvey, Chief of Advanced Technology at Ocado:
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Oxbotica to develop a wide range of autonomous solutions that truly have the potential to transform both our and our partners’ CFC and service delivery operations, while also giving all end customers the widest range of options and flexibility.”
Adds Paul Newman, Co-Founder & CTO of Oxbotica:
“This is an excellent opportunity for Oxbotica and Ocado to strengthen our partnership, sharing our vision for the future of autonomy. By combining both companies’ cutting-edge knowledge and resources, we hope to bring our Universal Autonomy vision to life and continue to solve some of the world’s most complex autonomy challenges.”