Asda launches 'UK’s largest’ autonomous grocery delivery trial

Asda has announced the launch of what it describes as the UK’s largest self-driving grocery delivery trial.

As part of a one-year trial, the British supermarket has partnered with the automated vehicle (AV) start-up to deliver groceries across a catchment area of 72,000 households and 170,000 residents in London.

Simon Gregg, vice president of e-commerce at Asda, said that the company is trialling the technology to understand how it can assist with its busy store operations.

Over the 12-month trial, both an Asda employee and a supervising Wayve safety driver will be in the vehicle when deliveries are being made.

The Asda employee will load and unload the groceries but they will be transported from the store to the front door in a self-driving vehicle.

The autonomous deliveries, made from Asda’s Park Royal superstore, will join its current online delivery operation at the West London site.

The retailer said that customers of the Park Royal store can place their next-day delivery orders online as usual, the only difference being that they could be randomly selected to have their order delivered in a self-driving vehicle.

Asda, which says it is the UK’s second largest online supermarket with over 20 per cent of the market, said that this is the first trial in the country that can “launch directly into commercial operations, without diverging from the operation of the store's online delivery processes”.

“Asda has long understood the value of bringing tech innovation to the online grocery sector and we are always looking at new and innovative partnerships to improve delivery options for customers,” said Asda VP of e-commerce, Simon Gregg. “We believe autonomous technology is an exciting opportunity to shape the future of delivery, not only at our Park Royal store but throughout our nationwide operation.”

Wayve says it uses machine learning to train its AI software to learn from experience how to drive in any environment.

"This results in AV technology that is not geo-fenced by highly detailed maps or pre-defined routes and can autonomously drive anywhere in its urban domain even to places it’s never been to before," it explains.

Alex Kendall, co-founder and chief executive of the tech start-up said that trials like these speed-up the company’s journey to being rolled out across the country.

“They provide the learnings required to bring the benefits of AV technology to customers sooner while ensuring that businesses, like Asda, are prepared to deploy AVs at scale,” added Kendall.

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