Asda introduces self driving delivery vans in AI first
Asda is rolling out its largest autonomous delivery trial with customers in London set to receive their groceries via self driving cars.
The UK’s third largest grocery store is launching the scheme in partnership with Wayve, a developer of artificial intelligence for self driving cars, and the pair will use Jaguar I-Pace electric cars for the trial.
Asda said 72,000 households in London would be randomly selected to have their order delivered in a self-driving vehicle – with shoppers at its Park Royal site in West-London the first to experience the technology.
Although the vehicles will be driven autonomously during the 12-month trial, an Asda colleague and supervising Wayve safety driver will be present in the vehicle when making deliveries.
Asda colleagues will then load and unload the groceries at the customer’s home, but they will be transported from the store to the door in a self-driving vehicle.
“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,” Simon Gregg, vice president of eCommerce at Asda, said.
“Online grocery shopping was growing in popularity prior to Covid-19, but the pandemic has brought about a huge acceleration in growth. This trend appears here to stay, and bringing driverless vehicles into the fold could be the next step forward,” Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at interactive investor, told City A.M.
The project has been in the works since 2021 when Asda alongside digital grocery store Ocado was revealed to be in talks with the AI intelligence group to bring the technology to its delivery offering.
At the time, Ocado invested £10m in the development with the intention of using the self-driving cars on busy London routes – and was reported to be trailing the technology in secret London locations.
“Because of current laws, driverless vehicles can’t operate without a safety driver in the seat. So one would be needed, in addition to a Asda worker, who will unload the groceries at the customer’s home. Asda will be hoping for significant shifts in existing laws and regulations governing driverless vehicles to fulfil its long-term ambitions for the technology.”
He added: “Asda also aims to benefit from first-mover advantage by blazing a trail in something that could become the norm in future. Other retailers will be casting a keen eye over the trial to gauge whether or not it is worth doing.”
The roll-out comes amidst renewed interest in the development of self-driving technology. Last week, Ford’s self-driving car was granted approval for hands-free use on British motorways, in a European first.
Alex Kendall, co-founder and chief executive, at Wayve said that 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.”
“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.”