Asda and Ocado are trialling ‘driverless vans’ in secret London locations as they explore the potential to use autonomous vehicles in a bid to improve road safety across the capital.
According to a report in the Evening Standard, both grocers have partnered with technology firm Wayve and have trials already underway as they look to find out more about the possibilities offered by self-driving vehicles.
Ocado has invested £10m into the company, which it hopes will be able to revolutionise grocery deliveries thanks to the technology developed using Jaguar I-Pace electric cars.
Wayve’s technology will soon be tested on Ocado delivery routes in selected London postcodes where online shopping is already popular, while Asda has also entered a 12-month testing phase.
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In addition to the safety aspect of the trials – all delivery vehicles have a safety operator behind the wheel who can take control if necessary – the supermarkets are also exploring how to solve the “kerb to kitchen” dilemma. Discounts may be offered to encourage customers to unload their own shopping.
Wayve director of partnerships and business development, Kaity Fischer, said self-driving vehicles could become commonplace within the “next decade”.
“I think it’s sooner than most folks think,” she said at the Evening Standard’s Plug It In summit, revealing that 96% of all accidents are based on human error, with drivers responsible for a serious injury or fatality on UK roads every 22 minutes.
“Autonomous vehicles are never drowsy. They are never drunk,” she said, explaining that self-drive vehicles use camera technology and AI to cope with congested streets and unexpected occurrences.
While UK law will not allow the trials to expand at present, Wayve has ambitions to see this change.
“This industry is huge,” Fischer said. “I feel it’s the UK’s to lose. It’s the legislation that will be the key driver. The technology is ready.”