Ocado planning self-driving deliveries with Oxbotica investment

Posted on April 16, 2021 by Jonathan Symcox

Oxbotica

Online grocery platform Ocado has invested £10 million into autonomous vehicle software firm Oxbotica. 

The listed group, which also provides online services to M&S, is planning to integrate self-driving vehicles into its entire network, from inside factories to last-mile deliveries.  

It said the purpose of the deal – described as a partnership – is to collaborate on hardware and software interfaces for autonomous vehicles 

Ocado expects to see the first prototypes of some early use cases for autonomous vehicles within two years. 

Oxbotica was founded in 2014 by Oxford University professors Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner. 

It calls its software platform low energy, hassle free, hardware agnostic and applicable to a vast array of vehicle types both on and off road. 

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In January Oxbotica revealed it had raised £34.4m Series B investment, led by bp ventures. The Ocado investment, revealed today, was part of this round, and included other strategic and financial investors in the US, UK, China and Australia, such as Tencent, Halma, BGF, HostPlus, IP Group, Venture Science and funds advised by Doxa Partners.  

Ocado will take a seat on Oxbotica’s board as part of the investment. It will now outfit a subset of its delivery vans and warehouse vehicles with data capture capabilities, which may include video cameras, LiDAR, RADAR and other sensing devices.  

Ocado will make this data available to Oxbotica to train and test its technologies, which will then inform Ocado as to what opportunities exist and where best it might take advantage of these partnerships. 

The use cases range from vehicles that operate inside of Ocado’s Customer Fulfilment Centre buildings and the yard areas that surround them, all the way to last-mile deliveries and kerb-to-kitchen robots. It will be a multi-year collaboration. 

Ocado has helped Oxbotica trial its technologies since 2017. 

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Oxbotica to develop a wide range of autonomous solutions that truly have the potential to transform both our and our partners’ CFC and service delivery operations, while also giving all end customers the widest range of options and flexibility,” said Alex Harvey, Chief of Advanced Technology at Ocado. 

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Ocado, which employs around 19,000 people, says – as with its automated factories – the vehicle autonomy programme is not expected to have any impact on its current hiring or employment levels within logistics or operations groups. 

It said it will seek further investments and/or partnerships as it grows and develops its autonomous vehicle capabilities. 

Paul Newman, co-founder and CTO of Oxbotica, commented: “This is an excellent opportunity for Oxbotica and Ocado to strengthen our partnership, sharing our vision for the future of autonomy.  

By combining both companies’ cutting-edge knowledge and resources, we hope to bring our universal autonomy vision to life and continue to solve some of the world’s most complex autonomy challenges.” 

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