The technology will be trialled next year, and will see a thinking van take to the streets – though a human will be on board to take over if there is an emergency
Asda shoppers might soon get their groceries delivered by robot, as the supermarket trials self-driving delivery vans.
The company is trialling the robot vans in London next year with self-driving vehicle firm Wayve.
The vans will drive completely under their own control – but will have a human on board to take over in case of emergencies.
The self-driving vehicles can learn “much like a person”, Wayve said, and are smart enough to think on the go when navigating and not rely too much on being pre-programmed.
This means the vans can still drive around areas not on maps – like newer roads and estates, which avoids ‘computer says no’ delivery problems.
The trial will last a year.
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Asda vice-president of online grocery Simon Gregg said: “We want to explore how autonomous vehicle technology can enhance our operating model as well as the experience for our colleagues and customers.
“Over the course of the last year, demand for online groceries has grown significantly, and we continue to push new boundaries in terms of retail innovation and technologies that can help us develop the most sustainable last-mile solutions for our business.”
‘Last mile’ is the term used by companies for getting products from depots to people’s houses.
Wayve was founded by boffins from the University of Cambridge in 2017 and specialises in robotics, driverless cars and ‘deep learning’ by computers.
Wayve chief executive Alex Kendall said: “We are excited to be working with Asda as our first commercial partner.”
Britain could soon see driverless cars on the roads too, as the government has big plans for the technology.
In January The Mirror reported that Britain aims to become the first country to have fully driverless cars.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is pressing ahead with his ambition to clear the way for motorists to take their hands off the wheel.
Senior officials at the Department for Transport reportedly told insurance industry chiefs that lane-keeping technology could permit drivers to watch a film, send texts or check emails at the wheel.
But the government is stepping back from a plan to allow it at 70mph and is said to have signalled it will apply in stop-start motorway traffic at speeds of up to 37mph.
The technology, the third of five stages leading to cars that have no driver, was approved in United Nations regulations that came into force in Britain earlier in the year.
It is confined to roads where traffic moving in opposite directions is physically separated and no pedestrians or cyclists are allowed.
Driverless buses are also in the pipeline, which companies like Stagecoach trialling them.
In 2019 Stagecoach tested the UK’s first full-sized driverless bus, which used autonomous functions to move around a depot in Manchester.
Multiple sensors including a radar, optical cameras and ultrasound were used to plan a path for the bus while detecting and avoiding objects.
Stagecoach hopes this could provide future benefits during passenger journeys, such as providing a warning when a cyclist or pedestrian may be in a blind spot.
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