UK – British automation and robotics company Ocado has announced a £10 million (about US$13.83 million) investment in autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica, as part of a new commercial partnership to develop autonomous delivery solutions.

Headquartered in Oxford, Oxbotica’s products use an advanced set of AI, machine learning and optimisation technologies to yield a low-power, quick-to-deploy ‘Universal Autonomy’ platform.

The company first teamed up with Ocado in 2017 for a two-week trial using an early prototype vehicle doing autonomous deliveries in Greenwich, London.

Ocado’s recent investment will see the companies work to enhance and integrate Oxbotica’s autonomy software platform into a variety of vehicles within Ocado’s Smart Platform.

The companies will also work together to develop AI-powered systems that work across Ocado’s operations, from vehicles within its packing warehouses through to the last-mile vehicles that deliver the groceries.

Through the partnership, Ocado says it ultimately wants to reduce the costs of last-mile delivery and other logistics operations.

Paul Newman, co-founder, and CTO of Oxbotica said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Oxbotica and Ocado to strengthen our partnership, sharing our vision for the future of autonomy. By combining both companies’ cutting-edge knowledge and resources, we hope to bring our Universal Autonomy vision to life and continue to solve some of the world’s most complex autonomy challenges.”

The investment forms part of Oxbotica’s latest Series B equity funding round led by Bp Ventures, with contribution from Tencent, Halma, BGF and Venture Science.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Oxbotica to develop a wide range of autonomous solutions that truly have the potential to transform both our and our partners’ CFC and service delivery operations, while also giving all end customers the widest range of options and flexibility,” said Alex Harvey, chief of advanced technology at Ocado.

Ocado expects to see the first prototypes of some early use cases for autonomous vehicles within two years.

Last November, Ocado bought two robotics companies – Kindred Systems and Haddington Dynamics – to accelerate the commercial delivery of grocery robotic picking for its Ocado Smart Platform clients.

Most recently, Ocado’s Smart Platform Technology was used by US retail company Kroger in powering operations at its first customer fulfillment center located in Monroe, Ohio.

Powered by Ocado, the centre combines vertical integration, machine learning and robotics with affordable and fast delivery service for fresh food.

Kroger now plans to leverage Ocado’s technology to open other CFCs in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan.

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