Online supermarket Ocado has launched the UK’s first autonomous grocery delivery trial in south-east London.

As part of the ongoing Gateway Project – which is testing different types of self-driving vehicles across the UK – the online-only supermarket has sent a small autonomous delivery truck known as a CargoPod into a residential area of Greenwich.

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But unlike other home grocery delivery services, the CargoPod – which was developed by Oxford-based firm Oxbotica – will require customers to leave their homes to collect goods from the vehicle themselves.

Oxbotica said the trial would help with research into improving so-called “last mile” deliveries to customers, at a time when it says cities are becoming “denser and more congested”.

Simon Tong, the principal research scientist for the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and technical lead for the Gateway Project, said the trial would analyse how goods as well as people interact with self-driving vehicles.

“This trial with Ocado Technology provides an ideal platform to help us understand how and where these vehicles could best operate and whether people would accept, trust and like them as an automated delivery service in the city.

“We envisage that cities could benefit massively if deliveries could be made by quiet, zero emission, automated vehicles when congestion is minimal.”

An Ocado home delivery van
Is the classic delivery van about to become a thing of the past? (Katie Collins/PA)

The CargoPod will be loaded with several customer orders at a central hub location before being driven manually to a route start point and switching to autonomous mode to complete a series of deliveries.

A safety steward remains in the driver’s seat at all times.

Customers will be updated on their delivery status by Ocado, before opening the loading bay which illuminates for them to collect their items.

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