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UK's Ocado invests in Wayve for autonomous grocery deliveries

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By Reuters
UK's Ocado invests in Wayve for autonomous grocery deliveries
UK's Ocado invests in Wayve for autonomous grocery deliveries   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

(Corrects paragraph two to remove timeframe, adds 12-month timeframe to paragraph eight)

By Nick Carey

LONDON -British online grocer Ocado is investing 10 million pounds ($13.6 million) in self-driving technology startup Wayve and a partnership to develop autonomous grocery deliveries that can handle tough traffic on busy city streets.

Wayve’s technology will be used in an autonomous delivery trial using a number of Ocado delivery vans on busy London routes, with a human driver overseeing the tests, the two companies said on Wednesday.

“This is a recognition that we’re uniquely positioned to build a technology than can deliver for the last-mile delivery space as well adapt and scale globally,” said Alex Kendall, CEO of London-based Wayve.

The investment from Ocado brings Wayve’s total funding raised so far to $60 million.

“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,” Ocado’s head of advanced technology Alex Harvey said in a statement.

A portion of Ocado’s delivery fleet will also be fitted with data collection devices to understand and learn how human drivers handle traffic so Wayve can train its own system to deal with the complexities of driving on the road.

Wayve CEO Kendall said the company’s technology relies on machine learning that uses camera sensors fitted on the outside of the vehicle.

The startup will also begin a 12-month trial of autonomous delivery vans with British supermarket chain Asda in London in early 2022.

Earlier this year, Ocado invested 10 million pounds in Oxford-based autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica as part of a tie-up that aims to reduce the cost of last-mile delivery and other logistics.

That partnership will initially focus on Ocado’s UK operations and then extend to international customers such as U.S. grocery chain Kroger.

($1 = 0.7343 pounds)