Oxbotica completes Europe-first on-road zero-occupancy autonomous vehicle journey

Driverless vehicle software provider collaborates with regulators and insurers to facilitate autonomous vehicle testing and announces landmark deployment with zero-occupancy, fully autonomous, new-type electric vehicle on UK roads

In what the autonomous vehicle (AV) software provider says provides a pointer towards future vehicles for transportation sector, Oxbotica has announced that it has completed the first safe and sustainable deployment of a zero-occupancy, fully autonomous, new-type electric vehicle on publicly accessible roads in Europe.

The all-electric AppliedEV vehicle, driven by Oxbotica, is operating in Oxford with no on-board driver, marking the next step in commercialising AV technology. The target is to create the first public on-road AV business deployment in a project with end-to-end online grocery fulfilment firm Ocado Group, with a goods delivery variant completing customer orders from 2023 onwards.

Oxbotica and Ocado first began working together in April 2021 after Ocado made a £10m investment in the British autonomous vehicle company as part of a multi-year effort to enhance and reduce the cost of the online grocery retailer’s last-mile delivery and logistics operations.

Ocado will be using Oxbotica’s artificial intelligence-based products Selenium, an on-vehicle platform that brings full autonomy to a vehicle in a way that is agnostic to both hardware and environment, and Caesium, a cloud-based autonomy management system enabling detailed control, audit, data management and monitoring to autonomous fleets.

As well as a potential reduction in costs, Ocado said it sees “significant opportunities” enhance its ability to use Oxbotica’s technology to respond to peak delivery demands, reducing the cost-to-serve of its immediacy approach, and improving sustainability and environmental impact by accelerating the shift to electrically powered vehicles.

Oxbotica will also now accelerate commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles globally. Working with partners, such as ZF, bp and NEVS, it will enable autonomous passenger shuttles and industry-specific platforms, all driven by its core product Oxbotica Driver.

Oxbotica Driver uses a combination of radar vision and laser-based sensors to provide the vehicle with an understanding of its surroundings, with artificial intelligence (AI) continuously checking and explaining decisions. This process is a foundational requirement for the safe deployment of zero-occupancy autonomous vehicles and underpins the development of innovative insurance solutions for the future of transportation.

“Oxbotica is changing the way people and goods move,” said Paul Newman, Oxbotica founder and chief technology officer. “Our goal is to be indistinguishable from perfect on safety, and this achievement alongside our partners is proof of that. It’s a historic moment for the UK, the transport and logistics sector, autonomous vehicle technology, and Oxbotica.”

Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at Ocado Technology, said: “This is a fantastic milestone and we are delighted to see Oxbotica making significant progress towards zero-occupancy goods deliveries. We continue to collaborate closely with Oxbotica and are excited about providing this transformational capability to Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) partners at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The achievement follows two years of trials by Oxbotica to define its safety case and develop its system architecture, in both off-road and on-road operations across the UK, Europe and North America. It is also said to a significant milestone for the insurance market and the development of insurance solutions for autonomous vehicles as part of the UK’s evolving mobility network.

The insurance programme, arranged by broker Marsh and created by Apollo Group’s ibott initiative through its MGA in partnership with insurer Aioi Nissay Dowa Europe, is the first of its kind in the UK and is tailored specifically for the risks associated with L4 autonomy on open roads.

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