Cargo-PodKent-based Convert Ltd, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of cable looms and harnesses, is celebrating after a cable harness it designed and manufactured was used in the UK’s first driverless grocery delivery trials.

Shape Machining – a leading composites manufacturer –  approached Convert to design and manufacture a cable harness for a project they were working on to build the cargo compartments for a prototype autonomous electric delivery van developed by Oxbotica, a leading driverless car software firm, and trialled by Ocado Technology.

The real world trials, which took place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, saw a self-driving delivery van, called CargoPod, delivering grocery orders to over one hundred Ocado customers.

Dave Lord, Convert’s Managing Director, said: “We’re very excited CargoPod has successfully completed its trials.  This was a great bespoke project to work on.  With four doors on each side, each with their own LEDs, door locks, sensors and internal lights, CargoPod was a challenge as it required a complex loom in order to connect all the different components to a power source and control unit.”

Convert’s loom for CargoPod required approximately 250 meters of cabelling – the length of five Olympic swimming pools.

Similar in size to a small milk truck, CargoPod is equipped with eight cargo compartments designed to carry small amounts of shopping.  Once CargoPod is loaded up with groceries, the customer is notified from a ‘mobile warehouse’ located around a mile from their home, and then again once it has reached their front door. The compartment with the customer’s groceries lights up when CargoPod arrives at their house. The customer then presses a button to unlock their box and collect their shopping bag.

Glen Pascoe, Shape Machining’s Development Manager, said: “We approached Convert to help us with the cable harnessing and electrical system integration for CargoPod. I’d worked with them in the past and had always been impressed with their abilities and approach. They met every engineering challenge I threw at them.  Using limited drawings to work from Convert had to design the assembly from our customer’s requirements and outline specifications which they did brilliantly, delivering the finished cable harness in under three months.”

Graeme Smith, CEO from Oxbotica, said: “Last mile delivery is a growing challenge as our cities become denser and more congested. In this new project we are working closely with Ocado Technology to deploy our Selenium autonomy system into a novel last-mile delivery application in Greenwich as a part of the GATEway project. This is truly a UK success story about CCAV and Innovate UK enabling a young British company to become established and to be able to demonstrate mature world-class technology capabilities within a real-life dense urban environment.”

CargoPod was developed by Oxbotica as part of the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), a world-leading research programme, led by TRL and funded by UK government and industry. It aims to demonstrate the use of autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile’ deliveries and mobility, seamlessly connecting existing distribution and transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using zero emission, low noise transport systems.

CargoPod is guided by Oxbotica’s state-of-the-art autonomy software system Selenium, which enables real-time, accurate navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments. Using data from lasers and cameras placed around the vehicle, Selenium allows the vehicle to know where it is, what’s around it, and where to go next.

CargoPod can cover a distance of 30 kilometers on a single charge, at speeds of up to 40km/h and can carry a total of 128kg of groceries at a time.


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