GATEway Project trials driverless grocery deliveries

Latest test of autonomous vehicles in Greenwich assesses their effect on the movement of goods

A small scale trial of driverless grocery delivery vehicles has begun as part of the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) Project.

Delivery from Ocado autonomous vehicleThe research programme, focused on the south-east London borough and led by transport innovation firm TRL, is running the trial of the CargoPod vehicle in a partnership with the Digital Greenwich initiative.

It is taking place around the Royal Arsenal Riverside development, working with online supermarket Ocado, and is aimed at demonstrating the use of autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile’ deliveries, connecting existing distribution hubs with residential and commercial areas using zero emission, low noise vehicles.

The trial will help Ocado Technology, a division of the supermarket, explore the logistics and practicalities of using driverless vehicles, and feed into the wider roll out of autonomous vehicles.

It is not operating completely without human assistance for the early stages. The vehicle is driven manually to the starting location then switched to autonomous mode for the deliveries, with the route provided by the Caesium fleet management software system, and a safety steward remains in the driver’s seat.

When it reaches the destination the customer is alerted and the door to the load bay with the delivery lights up, enabling the customer to unlock it by pressing a central button. The onboard system then notifies Caesium that the delivery has been made and the next point is set.

Unique platform

Simon Tong, principal research scientist for TRL and technical lead for the project, said: “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.”

The CargoPod has been developed by Oxbotica as part of the GATEway Project and uses the company’s Selenium software to plan, navigate and perceive features of its delivery route. The pod is able to carry up to 128kg of groceries at a time.

GATEway is also running trials of a prototype driverless shuttle vehicle around the Greenwich peninsula to test public attitudes. Users are being invited to provide feedback through an interactive map.

Image from TRL