Despite the much hype surrounding autonomous delivery machines, this technology is many years away from you frequently seeing autonomous vehicles on the road. Nevertheless, Ocado, an online retailer, and delivery company in collaboration with the technology firm Oxbotica together with the borough of Greenwich, London has developed a fleet of Cargo Pods. Furthermore, despite the small number, these autonomous delivery vehicles will get rid of the middleman and directly bring your orders right to your doorstep. Consequently, these Cargo Pods are essentially completing the “last mile” of the delivery process and this means they first are stocked before being sent out in your local delivery locale. However, these autonomous delivery machines are not intended for cross-country trips.
Whereas the Cargo Pod does not look futuristic, it can accommodate plenty of luggage, and it can hold groceries weighing 282 pounds in its eight boxes, in comparison to the 80 boxes carried by a regular Ocado van. However, this vehicle is just at its testing phase to prove the efficiency of this technology as well as sort out any issues which may arise, hence why the company has still yet to decide on the capacity, shape, and design of the final Cargo Pod.
Presently, there are two individuals inside these autonomous delivery machines, one being a safety marshal from Oxbotica mandated with activating and assessing the Cargo Pod’s self-driving part and the other from Ocado who monitors and validates the delivery system.
Features of the Ocado Cargo Pod
- To request for the services of Ocado, you need to place an order via the Ocado app, and subsequently, the Cargo Pod at the hub station gets loaded before it departs the hub station.
- Oxbotica developed Selenium, an independent operating system which powers the Cargo Pod, with this system handling minute -to-minute decision-making and visualization, that is, the vehicle’s location, what’s close by and what action it should do next. Likewise, Caesium, a cloud-based platform which Oxbotica develops, manages and coordinate the fleets of these autonomous delivery machines.
- Included in these autonomous delivery vehicles are sensors and computers which provides for stereo-vision cameras both at the back and the front of the car. The computer vision technology of Oxbotica creates a virtual map which the Cargo Pod will follow. Moreover, these vehicles do not use the GPU since it is not accurate enough for it is being used by self-driving cars.
- Laser scanners are present on these autonomous delivery machines, therefore, allowing the Cargo Pod to immediately detect obstacles on the road, like pedestrians in front of the vehicle. Additionally, the company intends to install an advanced image recognition and machine learning system to clearly distinguish between humans or pigeons on the street therefore not stopping every moment it detects an obstacle.
- The driving and logging of deliveries are carried out by computers. Furthermore, a central control location needs to be constructed, and it is from this base that the fleet of Cargo Pods will be operated and supervise the fleet, a similar role like that of an air traffic control team at the airport. However, the distinguishing feature is that one of the supervisors can operate the pod in case it gets into trouble.
- Inside the Cargo Pod are eight containers with a capacity of carrying a maximum of 128KG of groceries hence allowing these vehicles to make deliveries at several stops in one trip.
- After arriving at the customer’s home, the Cargo Pod illuminates light around a numbered hatch that contains your order. Subsequently, you press the button which then unlocks the “pod” and picks up order inside a heavy-duty basket.
Functions of Ocado Cargo Pod
- The company designed these autonomous delivery machines with an aim to improve the efficiency of getting groceries since you do not need now to go to the supermarket and do your shopping.
- Because the customer receives the deliveries at their homes, they are saved a tremendous amount of time they would have otherwise spent on the road going to shop for their groceries.