Do you speak robot?

The Spark

5th July 2017

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Ocado recently showcased its CargoPod van on the streets of London, which represents its foray into the driverless cars market. Nothing new or ground-breaking on first glance, based on the Google Waymo and Uber’s fleet of driverless cars, but it’s what Ocado is using the technology for that is particularly interesting. We’ve known for a couple of years that the technology is existing and maturing, though it’s still very much in its infancy. As consumers, we’re waiting for that breakthrough moment when it is fully commercialised.

We’ve talked before in The Spark about robotics revolutionising our working environment. Now Ocado, in conjunction with Oxbotica, is taking steps to utilise robotics and driverless technology to further enhance our personal experiences outside of the workplace. More specifically, revolutionising our grocery shopping experience, with the UK’s first driverless grocery delivery.

That’s right; over the years, technology has seen us strip out socialising with someone behind the till of our local supermarket—as more and more of us in the UK head online to shop—and now we’re potentially taking that happy-go-lucky delivery driver out of the equation too.

The CargoPod, which is somewhere between a milk truck and a tuk-tuk, will drive to your delivery address, stop and illuminate one of its eight ‘pods’ containing your groceries. You pop out, collect your purchases and send the CargoPod back on its way. Simple, effective, easy.

Hermes, the delivery and courier service, has had a number of Starship Technologies’ robots on the London streets since April, carrying up to 10kg worth of packages at any given time and delivering via self-driving technology. Combine this with Ocado’s offering and we could soon see one robot whizzing out of another to deliver goods straight to our front door, meaning we may not even need to walk the ten feet to the pavement. In fact, while we’re at it let’s leave the front door open and get our goods delivered straight to our armchair.

More and more of our purchasing is being done through humanless interaction. So whether it’s being chauffeur driven without the chauffeur, or buying a drone and having it delivered via, well, a drone, we’re slowly becoming a society which doesn’t need, or perhaps want, human interaction as part of our shopper journey. Ocado’s and Hermes’ ventures into the driverless market may just be the beginning of robots and technology evolving our purchase expedition. With the giants of Google, Amazon and Uber already committed to driverless technology, who knows how this market could impact our future.

Let’s just hope that robots don’t learn small talk.


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