Asda is to begin making home deliveries using “self-driving” electric cars.
Customers will have their shopping delivered to their door by a Jaguar I-Pace equipped with semi-autonomous technology in what the supermarket chain says is Europe's largest trial of autonomous grocery deliveries.
The retailer has teamed up with autonomous vehicle firm Wayve for the 12-month project, which is being run from its Park Royal superstore in West London. The store covers 170,000 residents across 72,000 households in London and home delivery customers will be picked at random to have their shopping delivered in one of the test vehicles.
During the trial a Wayve safety driver will be in the vehicle at all times, alongside a member of Asda’s delivery team, who will load and unload the groceries. However, the car will use Wayve’s AV2.0 technology to navigate itself between the store and the customer’s address.
According to the firms, the system uses machine learning to train its AI software how to drive in any environment, which means it is not restricted to pre-mapped or geo-fenced areas or routes but can be rolled out immediately even in areas where it has never operated before. While in operation the system monitors the road and surroundings to check for potential hazards and make “the safest decisions possible”. However, the safety driver will be on hand to take over if the system encounters a problem.
The trial launch follows a two-year partnership between the retail giant and tech start-up which aims to lead the way on developing self-driving delivery vehicles for the grocery market. If it is successful, the firms hope to roll the technology out to other Asda stores around the UK.
Asda is the UK's second biggest online supermarket, making 800,000 deliveries per week. Simon Gregg, the firm's senior vice president of eCommerce said the trial could pave the way for the future of home shopping,
He commented: “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. 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.
“Through our partnership with Wayve, we are trialling this technology to understand how it can assist our busy store operations, whilst also adding a unique, reliable and efficient option for Asda customers to have a whole range of products delivered to their doors.”
Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO at Wayve added: “We’re excited to partner with Asda on the largest urban autonomous grocery delivery trial in Europe. The trial is a demonstration of how autonomy can meet fleet owner needs. We started developing our AV technology over five years ago: it’s incredible to see it delivering real value today as part of Asda’s daily operations.”