‘Self-driving’ vans could make Ocado deliveries in the capital
ondoners could have their weekly groceries delivered by “self-driving” vehicles under plans being trialled in the capital.
Asda and Ocado have partnered with technology firm Wayve to explore the potential to use driverless or “autonomous” vehicles to improve road safety.
Kaity Fischer, Director of Partnerships and Business Development at Wayve, said they could become commonplace within the “next decade”.
“I think it’s sooner than most folks think,” she told the Evening Standard’s Plug It In summit.
She said that humans were responsible for a serious injury or fatality on UK roads every 22 minutes.
By comparison, automated vehicles used camera technology and artificial intelligence to cope with congested streets and unexpected occurrences.
“Autonomous vehicles are never drowsy. They are never drunk,” she said. “96 per cent of all accidents are based on human error.”
Wayve’s technology, developed using Jaguar I-Pace electric cars, is soon to be tested on Ocado delivery routes on selected London postcodes. A 12-month trial with Asda has begun.
Ms Fischer declined to reveal the testing locations but said trials were being run in parts of London where online shopping was already popular.
The vehicles do have a “safety operator” behind the wheel – able to intervene if necessary – but essentially “drive” themselves.
The trials are also exploring how to solve the “kerb to kitchen” dilemma – with the possibility of customers who are prepared to unload their own shopping receiving a discount on their shopping.
The King’s Cross-based firm secured a £10m investment from Ocado last year. “It means safer streets and cleaner streets,” Ms Fischer told the Standard.
A change in the law – the “biggest barrier” at present – would be required to enable the trials to be expanded to a wider operation. Insurance for a fleet of autonomous vehicles would also be needed.
“Our ambition is to launch in London and to grow in London,” Ms Fischer said. “This industry is huge. I feel it’s the UK’s to lose. It’s the legislation that will be the key driver. The technology is ready.”