What if you could have your groceries delivered to your doorstep by an autonomous vehicle, wouldn’t that be swell? Of course, it would. Today, it’s possible to have groceries delivered to your home with Amazon Fresh and Instacart, but none of them have yet to deploy autonomous vehicles.
Such is not the case in London where a company known as Ocado is using the technology to deliver goods to residents. At the moment, the company is using a car called CargoPod, which is designed by Oxbotica.
The vehicle is kind of interesting since it has stereo cameras and lidar sensors. Furthermore, it takes full advantage of Oxbotica’s autonomy software to track and avoid objects and to navigate a busy road without intervention from humans. Despite that, a human driver is required in the car as per UK law.
What’s on the back of the vehicle?
There are eight pods on the back, each with the ability to hold up to three bags of groceries. Now, humans are only required to fill the pods with groceries, but we’re sure as time goes by, human interference will be irrelevant in this area as well.
Traveling to its destination is something pre-planned in the cloud, but executed by the autonomous vehicle. The car will move about slowly to its destination, and once there, the customer will receive an alert via a smartphone app. From there, the customer must press a button on the car to open the pods.
Ocado’s CargoPod doesn’t support every food item
For now, this autonomous grocery delivery program is in beta, which is the case for all the others. Additionally, folks who are interested in having their groceries delivered to their doorstep must bear in mind Ocado only supports the delivery of nonperishable goods for now.
Moreover, customers must live in the gated community known as Berkeley Homes, for it’s the only supported area during the testing phase. If everything goes according to plan, we expect other gated neighborhoods to gain access to future beta testing programs.
The reason Ocado has chosen to support a gated community has much to do with limited traffic than anything else. The technology in its current form isn’t ready for testing on a busy street, though, in a few years, this will likely happen.
“In the future, these vehicles are not necessarily going to be used for one purpose,” says Ocado’s chief technology officer, Paul Clarke. “One person may have booked an autonomous trip from A to B, and actually there may be something just around the corner to backhaul on the return to trip. That’s going to help drive the cost down, and reduce the number of these vehicles that we actually need on the roads.”
The company is quite bullish about the future. It believes folks coming home late from work could always have a means of getting groceries without the need to visit the supermarket. Furthermore, customers who might need a late night snack can use CargoPod as a form of vending machine.
As it stands right now, the world is getting in on the action when it comes down to delivering goods via an autonomous vehicle. Amazon is testing its drone delivery initiative, but time will tell if it works as planned.