Automation is becoming part of the food chain, from farming and food processing to assembling online grocery orders and delivering them. Wayve yesterday announced a £10 million ($13.63 million U.S.) investment from Ocado Group PLC. The companies said they are partnering to accelerate the development of autonomous grocery deliveries in complex urban environments.
“Ocado Group has been driving innovation in global grocery logistics for decades,” said Alex Kendall, CEO of Wayve. “Their cutting-edge approach to grocery operations and international reach aligns strongly with Wayve’s culture and global ambitions.”
“Globally, there is huge momentum to transform mobility in grocery operations right now,” he said. “We are focused on delivering an autonomous last-mile solution to support the needs of grocery retailers everywhere. Through this partnership with Ocado Group, we aim to unlock autonomous delivery faster in more places worldwide.”
Wayve puts deep learning on the road
Founded in 2017, Wayve claimed that it was the first company “to deploy autonomous vehicles on public roads with end-to-end deep learning.” The London-based startup said its artificial intelligence software, lean hardware, and fleet-learning platform are enabling “AV 2.0—a next-generation autonomous driving system that can quickly and safely adapt to new driving domains anywhere in the world.”
Wayve has raised more than $58 million to date and is backed by Eclipse Ventures; Balderton Capital; and prominent technology leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, Rosemary Leith, and Yann LeCun. The company is testing across the U.K. and said it wants to be the first one to deploy autonomous vehicles in 100 cities.
In addition, Wayve said its deep learning and camera-first technology can adapt to new, unstructured, highly complex environments, without the need for pre-programming, human-designed rules, or high-definition mapping.
Last month, Wayve announced a similar van trial with Asda.
Ocado to outfit vans for urban delivery trials
Ocado was forced to temporarily suspend its delivery service in March 2020 because of high demand early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company's vans will be outfitted with Wayve's autonomous technology and trialed on urban delivery routes. The online retailer said the collaboration will help it explore first-hand how Wayve can handle the congested streets and challenging maneuvers that last-mile delivery technology must be equipped to navigate.
A portion of Ocado’s existing delivery fleet will also be outfitted with Wayve’s data-collection devices to provide data for training and validating Wayve’s technology. The company briefly suspended its delivery service because of
“Ocado is on a journey to develop highly intelligent autonomous mobility systems to further transform the operational economics, and proposition, of the Ocado Smart Platform for our OSP [Ocado Smart Platform] retail partners,” noted Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at Ocado Group. “We’ve been impressed with Wayve’s approach to solving this most complex of challenges and are excited to accelerate our capabilities so that our retail partners globally can take advantage of them at the earliest opportunity.”
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