Online delivery company Ocado (OCDO.L) announced on Wednesday that it would pump £10m ($13.6m) into autonomous delivery startup Wayve, in a move that paves the way for driverless food deliveries in "complex urban environments."
Wayve has developed advanced deep learning and camera-first technology, with the ability to adapt to new, unstructured, highly complex environments.
Its vehicles can operate without the need for pre-programming, human-designed rules, or high definition mapping.
The startup has raised more than $58m 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 team is headquartered in London with their fleet of vehicles testing in cities across the UK.
"Globally, there is huge momentum to transform mobility in grocery operations right now," said Alex Kendall, CEO of Wayve. "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.”
The collaboration includes an autonomous delivery trial that will see Wayve’s technology fitted onto a selection of Ocado delivery vans and trialed on urban delivery routes for 12 months.
This trial will help Ocado explore first-hand how Wayve can handle the congested streets and challenging manoeuvres 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.
Read more: What it takes to be an HGV driver in the UK
This is the second self-driving partnership Ocado has struck this year. In April it took a £10m stake in another British company, Oxbotica, to build self-driving vehicles for itself and others who use its platform.
"We want the entire end to end operation, ultimately, to be autonomous — from the receipt of stock to the warehouse all the way through to the customer's door," said Alex Harvey, Ocado's head of advanced technology, at the time.