The UK’s first autonomous van delivery trial has taken place in south-east London.

Led by Transport Research Laboratory as part of its Government-funded Gateway Project, and run in association with Ocado Technology – a division of the online shopping giant Ocado – the trial used a van known as CargoPod to transport shopping around a residential environment.

The CargoPod van was developed by autonomous technology company Oxbotica, and has a payload of 128kg.

Two people were aboard the van – a safety steward from Oxbotica and an Ocado employee, who helped guide customers through the process of receiving their shopping.

 During the course of the 10-day trial, the van made more than 100 deliveries, TRL said.

Speaking at the press launch of the project on 28 June, Nick Reed, academy director at TRL, said the aim of the trial was to see how members of the public interacted with and reacted to the self-driving van.

“We’re looking at the ways in which the public can use and trust the vehicle,” he added. “We’re looking to improve the efficiencies of delivering freight and we want to understand how the vehicle can improve the delivery experience.”

Ocado used the trial to explore the logistics of deploying driverless vans as part of a wider ploy to smarten up the process of moving goods from warehouses to customer homes.

David Sharp, head of Ocado Technology’s 10x department, said: “Ocado Technology is delighted to have worked in partnership with the Gateway Project to complete a very successful grocery delivery trial using driverless vehicles. We are always looking to come up with unique, innovative solutions to the real-world challenge of delivering groceries in densely-populated urban environments.”

An in-depth look at the project will be published in the August issue of What Van?