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3rd October 2017, Witney

UK’s first driverless grocery delivery trial

The UK’s first driverless grocery delivery trials, which took place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in June, saw a prototype electric van called CargoPod, developed by a driverless car software firm Oxbotica, delivering grocery orders to over one hundred Ocado Technology customers.

The van’s cargo compartments were designed and built by a leading UK-based composites manufacturer Shape Machining. “Shape’s responsibility was for the whole design and manufacture of the cargo area, which is at the rear of the vehicle that would house of all the groceries and be the point that the customer interacts with. And we took that from the very first concepts, sketches, through to the final production and fit of the pod onto the vehicle,” explained Glen Pascoe, Shape Machining’s Development Manager.

Pod construction

The rear end of the vehicle was custom designed and built, using Shape’s fiberglass panels. The side and the roof were made of glass fibre and a polyester resin, manufactured using a vacuum infusion technique. The side doors were similar construction and were composed of two parts, bonded together. “Then, Perspex infill panels were bonded to the side and door composite panels, so that when we added LED lighting behind them, we could illuminate the certain aspects of the vehicle to communicate with the customer,” continued Mr Pascoe.

CargoPod is guided by Oxbotica’s state-of-the-art autonomy software system Selenium. © Convert

“The most technical, from the composites point of view, was the rear door, which was a glass fibre prepreg construction, and then had a CNC machined Rohacell core as a frame that was all co-moulded in a single cure process to give us a lighter rear door construction.”

“The most interesting aspect was the mass target of the vehicle,” said Mr Pascoe. “There was quite a generous mass target for the pod bodywork.” The overall weight of the bodywork, which included panels and compartments manufactured by Shape, had to be just under 300kg. “Shape undercut the bodywork target by 130kg by using glass and polyester composite construction,” commented Mr Pascoe.

Cabling harness

Shape Machining approached Convert, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of cable looms and harnesses, to design and manufacture a cable harness for the project. Convert’s loom for CargoPod required approximately 250 meters of cabling – the length of five Olympic swimming pools.

“We’re very excited CargoPod has successfully completed its trials. This was a great bespoke project to work on. With four doors on each side, each with their own LEDs, door locks, sensors and internal lights, CargoPod was a challenge as it required a complex loom in order to connect all the different components to a power source and control unit,” commented Dave Lord, Convert’s Managing Director.


CargoPod was developed by Oxbotica as part of the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), a research programme, led by TRL and funded by UK government and industry. It aims to demonstrate the use of autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile’ deliveries and mobility, seamlessly connecting existing distribution and transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using zero emission, low noise transport systems.

CargoPod was developed by Oxbotica as part of the GATEway Project. © Convert

Similar in size to a small milk truck, CargoPod is equipped with eight cargo compartments designed to carry small amounts of shopping. Once CargoPod is loaded up with groceries, the customer is notified from a ‘mobile warehouse’ located around a mile from their home, and then again once it has reached their front door. The compartment with the customer’s groceries lights up when CargoPod arrives at their house. The customer then presses a button to unlock their box and collect their shopping bag.

Accurate navigation

CargoPod is guided by Oxbotica’s state-of-the-art autonomy software system Selenium, which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. Using data from lasers and cameras placed around the vehicle, Selenium allows the vehicle to know where it is, what’s around it, and where to go next.

CargoPod can cover a distance of 30 km on a single charge, at speeds of up to 40km/h and can carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time.

The focus of the trails conducted in June was both on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment. This, the third of four trials with the GATEway Project, was exploring the public’s perceptions and understanding of driverless delivery vehicles.

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