UK-based grocer Ocado announced today that it has invested £10 million (~$13.8M USD) in autonomous vehicle (and fellow UK) company Oxbotica. The investment is part of an broader, multi-year deal to develop self-driving hardware and software.
For Ocado, autonomous vehicle tech could have a number of uses, from self-driving warehouse vehicles to delivery vans to smaller autonomous robots.
That Ocado bought Oxbotica to bring autonomy further up and down its tech stack makes a lot of sense. The grocer already makes autonomous smart warehouses filled with robots zipping along grids assembling items for grocery orders. It’s natural to extend that autonomy throughout its warehouses and into delivery vehicles. It’s easy to envision robots picking and packing grocery orders, which are then handed off to warehouse robot that places it in a self-driving delivery van that drives off to a customer’s house.
Ocado has also shown that it’s not shy about spending money on autonomous systems. Last year purchased Kindred Systems and Haddington Dynamics to enhance its robotics capabilities. And prior to that it led the $9 million Seed round in cafeteria robot company Karakuri.
Ocado’s investment in Oxbotica actually caps off what has been a big week for autonomous vehicles. Udelv announced its new self-driving Transporter platform. Domino’s tapped Nuro to make autonomous pizza deliveries in Houston, Texas. And Walmart announced it had invested in self-driving startup, Cruise.
It’s also been a big news week for Ocado. The company’s technology powers Kroger’s Customer Fulfillment Centers, the first of which opened up in Monroe, Ohio this week. For its part, Kroger has dabbled in self-driving delivery before through a partnership with Nuro.
If you want to learn more about robotics in grocery, be sure to attend ArticulATE, our food automation virtual summit happening on May 18. There will be a number of autonomous vehicle companies as well as Karakuri speaking!