Autonomous food delivery trials begin in London

In the first UK trial of its kind, online grocery shoppers in the London Borough of Greenwich are having food delivered to their homes by driverless trucks.

The trial is being carried out as part of the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), which is a wider autonomous car initiative led by TRL. The trial also involves the technology arm of online grocer Ocado.

During the trials, a self driving delivery vehicle, known as CargoPod, is delivering food to around one hundred customers around Greenwich’s Royal Arsenal Riverside development.

Developed by Oxford University spinout Oxbotica, CargoPod is guided by an autonomy software system called Selenium that enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. The pod is able to carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time.

Customers taking part in the trial order from a choice of three free gift hampers. The CargoPod is then loaded with several customers’ orders at a hub location, and a specially developed fleet management system known as Caesium is used to generate a delivery route. The CargoPod then travels autonomously along the route, stopping at customers’ homes, and alerting them to come and collect their groceries.

The focus of the current study – which is the third of four trials within the wider GATEway project – is both on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment.

Meanwhile, Ocado Technology 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 technology.

Commenting on the latest trial TRL’s Simon Tong, technical lead for the GATEway project, said: “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.”