Sunday, 9 May 2021

Ocado plans self-driving delivery vehicles and ‘kerb to kitchen’ robots in Oxbotica tech tie-up

Ocado has revealed plans to develop self-driving delivery vehicles and “kerb to kitchen” robots as part of a tie-up with tech firm Oxbotica.

The online grocery firm hopes to see prototypes developed within two years though it will take longer before they are ready to start serving customers.

Vehicles that operate within Ocado’s depots will also be developed as part of the project, which aims to cut the cost of logistics and delivery.

It is also hoped that the technology will help it respond more quickly to peak delivery demands and accelerate the shift to electrically-powered vehicles.

As part of the collaboration, Ocado will fit out some delivery vans and warehouse vehicles with video cameras and hi-tech sensing devices and share it with Oxbotica to help it develop technologies.

Ocado said that for “regulatory and complexity reasons” it expected vehicles used in “low-speed urban areas” or at its depots were likely to “become a reality sooner than full-autonomous deliveries to consumers’ homes”.

It added: “Ocado expects to see the first prototypes of some early use cases for autonomous vehicles within two years.”

The two companies previously worked together on a two-week trial of autonomous deliveries in south London in 2017.

Ocado said that Oxbotica had since made “significant progress in developing its platform” leading to the latest tie-up announcement and a £10m investment by Ocado in the company, which was formed in 2014 as a spin-out of Oxford University.

The tie-up will initially focus on Ocado’s UK business, where the company operates a joint venture food delivery service with Marks & Spencer and also works with Morrisons.

It will then extend to overseas markets, where it works with partners such as US grocery chain Kroger.

Oxbotica co-founder Paul Newman said: “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.”

Ocado, which already widely uses robot technology at its customer fulfilment centres, said the self-driving vehicle plan would not have any impact on current hiring or employment levels

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