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Grocery Wars

Ocado tests Driverless Grocery Delivery, Supervalu Teams with Instacart

The Ocado Group Group PLC (LON: OCDO) is testing driverless grocery delivery in the UK with help from a company called Oxbotica.

The driverless truck cruises down the street while a delivery person on foot takes the orders to the front door. The truck called the Cargo Pod was tested in London’s Royal Arsenal Riverside neighborhood, Endgadget reported. The vehicle is rather small and silly in appearance – it looks like a milk float to Brits and a large ATV to North Americans

Oxbotica built the Cargo Pod on an electric car platform using off-the-shelf technology. Like Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica and Jaguar i-Pace vehicles uses LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors to see.

“We don’t use GPS in any of our solutions because it’s not reliable enough for the environments we work in,” Graeme Smith, the CEO of Oxbotica told Endgadget. “So we use cameras to help us map a route. For example, you won’t see this type of area mapped in any great detail, by any third party, so we use cameras to map the route and then in real time, we use the onboard cameras to localize and help us follow that route.”

The Cargo Pod is driven by Oxbotica’s autonomous-vehicle platform Selenium and works with Oxbotica’s cloud-based logistics ecosystem Caesium. Casesium can be used for both delivery and rideshare services like Lyft. Caesium is described as a cloud-based fleet management system. Oxbotica’s website called Selenium a “vehicle agnostic operating system” and claimed it can work from anything from forklifts to the Mars Rover.

Oxbotica also operates the Gateway shuttles in North Greenwich, London. Smith claimed that the Car Pod operates with an efficiency of around 95%. Oxbotica has several driverless vehicles including driverless Ford (NYSE: F) Fusion cars and Explorer SUVs. Its next logical vehicles should be Ford Transit and Transit Connect work vans which would be perfect for driverless grocery delivery in the United States.

Instacart Teams up with Supervalu

Ailing grocer Supervalu Inc. (NYSE: SVU) has turned to Ocado’s American rival Instacart for help with survival.

Instacart has created click and pull and same-day deliver options for the 3,323 independent grocery stores that use Supervalu’s distribution and warehouse services, Progressive Grocer reported. The options will allow those grocers to offer Instacart delivery or to get online orders pulled and packed.

The move is designed to counter Supervalu’s rivals like Kroger which has tapped Instacart for delivery. Working with Instacart can help Supervalu survive and thrive if it can offer Instacart delivery directly from its distribution centers.

Those centers are well-positioned to serve major American cities. The Commerce, California, center is in Los Angeles. The Joliet, Illinois, center is on the edge of Chicagoland, the Pompeo Beach center can serve Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and the Stockton, California, center is next to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Since Supervalu is selling of its brick and mortar grocery stores a major push into delivery is likely. One use for Supervalu’s distribution network would be to bring Kroger (NYSE: KR) grocery delivery into Chicago and Miami.

Is Driverless Grocery Delivery Coming to America?

Ocado plays a role here because Kroger owns 6% of that company. Kroger and Ocado are developing a network of robotic distribution centers across the US.

Since Kroger’s new distribution centers will use Ocado’s robots to move groceries it is likely that Kroger or Instacart will test Oxbotica’s CargoPod in the United States soon. Kroger is the largest standalone grocer in Arizona, which is a hotbed of autonomous car testing.

A strong possibility is that Oxbotica or Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) subsidiary Waymo might start testing driverless grocery delivery in conjunction with Kroger’s Smith’s stores in Arizona. Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans would be a good platform for grocery delivery.

We can expect to see some sort of grocery delivery in most American communities within two years. The testing of some sort of driverless grocery delivery should occur somewhere in the United States or Canada within the year.