Grocery delivery business Ocado is investing £10 million in a commercial partnership with Oxford-based driverless vehicle technology company Oxbotica.
The companies will collaborate on hardware and software interfaces for autonomous vehicles, which they say will enhance and integrate Oxbotica’s autonomy software platform into a variety of vehicles.
The use cases range from vehicles that operate inside of Ocado’s Customer Fulfilment Centre (“CFC”) buildings and the yard areas that surround them, all the way to last-mile deliveries and kerb-to-kitchen robots. They say this will be a multi-year collaboration, and the ultimate ambition is to enable Ocado’s partners that use the Ocado Smart Platform (“OSP”) to reduce the costs of last-mile delivery and other logistics operations.
The Ocado/Oxbotica relationship began in 2017, when we conducted a two-week trial using an early prototype delivery vehicle doing autonomous deliveries in Greenwich, London. Since that initial trial, Oxbotica says it has made significant progress in developing its platform, leading to this announcement of a broader relationship that includes both Ocado’s financial investment and a commercial collaboration agreement.
Oxbotica’s two core products are Selenium and Caesium. Selenium is an on-vehicle suite of software that brings full autonomy to a vehicle in a way that is agnostic to both hardware and environment. Caesium is a cloud-based autonomy management system that brings fine-grained control, audit, data management and monitoring to autonomous fleets. Oxbotica’s products use an advanced set of AI, machine learning and optimisation technologies to yield a low-power, safe, explainable, quick-to-deploy, modular and completely flexible “Universal Autonomy” platform.
Ocado will build teams of engineers within its existing Advanced Technology division to work with Oxbotica on these diverse use cases. The Advanced Technology division is independent from the engineering team that develops core OSP software and automation. The initial development work will focus on UK operations, and will then extend to international markets where Ocado’s partners operate.
Over the last five years Ocado has created more than 8,000 new jobs in the UK and abroad, with headcount now approaching 19,000 employees. As with its robotics business, this vehicle autonomy programme is not expected to have any impact on Ocado’s current hiring or employment levels within logistics or operations groups.
Alex Harvey, Chief of Advanced Technology at Ocado, commented, “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.”
Paul Newman, Co-Founder & 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.”