A DRIVERLESS van developed by an Oxford firm has been hitting the streets to deliver groceries in a recent trial.

The small vehicle, created by Summertown-based Oxbotica for online supermarket Ocado, spent two weeks in Greenwich, London, delivering free food to residents.

CargoPod is the first Oxbotica self-driving electric vehicle capable of transporting cargo by using the company’s state-of-the-art software and control system.

The focus of the trial was both on the commercial opportunities of self-driving technology and how it functions alongside people in a residential environment.

It was a successful endeavour, with the autonomous van zipping from place to place in a dense, real-world urban environment.

The trial gave Ocado Technology the ability to experiment with fresh ideas for the last mile of online retail – the stage that starts when the goods leave the facility for delivery and ends when they are placed securely in the hands of customers.

Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said: “Last mile delivery is a growing challenge as our cities become denser and more congested.

“In this new project we worked closely with Ocado Technology to deploy our Selenium autonomy system into a novel last-mile delivery application in Greenwich as a part of the GATEway project.

“This is truly a UK success story about CCAV [the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles] and Innovate enabling a young British company to become established and to be able to demonstrate mature world-class technology capabilities within a real-life dense urban environment.”

CargoPod is equipped with eight cargo compartments.

The corresponding customer compartment lights up when CargoPod arrives at a particular customer’s stop.

The customer is then able to press a central button, which unlocks the compartment, and open the door and retrieve their groceries.

The van can cover 30 kilometers on a single charge, at speeds of up to 40km/h.

CargoPod determines its location using cameras, while lasers are used for obstacle detection and perception. Oxbotica’s software not only learns from its own environment and actions, but is also able to share experiences across vehicles, meaning that its performance is always improving over time.

The trials were in partnership with the GATEway project, an £8m research project to understand and overcome the challenges of implementing automated vehicles in an urban environment.

Oxbotica is also leading a project – DRIVEN – which will see driverless cars make ‘groundbreaking’ trial journeys between Oxford and London in just two years’ time.

It will be the culmination of a 30-month programme, which Oxbotica said was the most complex trial of autonomous vehicles ever undertaken.

The cars will travel in both urban areas and on motorways, with closed-road demonstrations starting in Oxford from early next year.

The company will also plans to test its own vehicles on Oxford’s road network later this year.

Ocado does not have any physical stores and instead delivers from warehouses.