GATEway tests grocery delivery robots

The London borough of Greenwich has become the first urban residential area in the UK to have a driverless grocery delivery service.

The grocery delivery service is part of the GATEway Project – the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment – and is led by TRL and funded by both government and industry.

GATEway is running the trial alongside Ocado Technology, a division of the online supermarket.

The system involves a so-called CargoPod vehicle that delivers groceries to more than 100 customers in Berkeley Homes, a Royal Arsenal Riverside development in the borough.

The CargoPod is a system developed by the tech company Oxbotica. It is self-guided by the Selenium autonomy software system that, “enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments”. It is capable of carrying up to 128kg of groceries per load.

Ocado Technology is using the trials to explore the ins and outs of robot delivery in a real-life environment. It would form part of the last mile delivery offering of the Ocado Smart Platform, that Ocado describes as an “end-to-end solution for providing bricks and mortar grocery retailers around the world with a shortcut for moving online”.

Amongst other things the pilot project aims to look at the commercial aspects of a self-driving robot as well as how people respond to it.

Simon Tong, Principal Research Scientist (TRL) and technical lead for the GATEway project, commented: “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. 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.”

Business Minister Claire Perry also picked up on theme of how autonomous delivery systems could be environmentally and commercially successful: “The GATEway project takes us another step closer to seeing self-driving vehicles on UK roads, and has the potential to reduce congestion in urban areas while reducing emissions. Backed by government, this project firmly establishes the UK as a global centre for developing self-driving innovation.”
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