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Ocado is to trial driverless delivery vans on urban routes, in partnership with autonomous tech startup Wayve.

Ocado is also investing £10m in the startup, and said it was “on a journey” towards offering driverless delivery tech to its retail partners.

“We’ve been impressed with Wayve’s approach to solving this most complex of challenges and are excited to accelerate our capabilities so that our retail partners globally can take advantage of them at the earliest opportunity,” said Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at Ocado Group.

The 12-month trial of the tech will “explore first-hand how Wayve can handle the congested streets and challenging manoeuvres that last-mile delivery technology must be equipped to navigate”.

As well as the driverless vans, additional vans in Ocado’s fleet will be fitted with Wayve data collection devices to provide data for training and validating the technology.

Unlike other driverless vehicles, Wayve’s technology “learns much like a person does” the startup said, and doesn’t rely on “virtual infrastructure or costly sensing and mapping”.

That allows its autonomous vehicles to drive under their own control in complex, never-before-seen environments, “without the need for pre-programming, human-designed rules, or high-definition mapping” the startup said.

Last month, Asda announced it was to trial Wayve tech equipped autonomous grocery delivery vans, as part of a 12-month trial in London. Asda vans will be loaded with cameras and computers and drive under its own control, though “under the supervision of a Wayve safety driver throughout”.

“Globally, there is huge momentum to transform mobility in grocery operations right now,” said Alex Kendall, CEO of Wayve.

“We are focused on delivering an autonomous last-mile solution to support the needs of grocery retailers everywhere,” he added. “Through this partnership with Ocado Group we aim to unlock autonomous delivery faster in more places worldwide.” 

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