Ocado Invests $13.8 Million in AI Autonomous Driving Startup Oxbotica

By Avi Ben Ezra Friday, April 16, 2021

Online grocery company Ocado said it is acquiring a £10 million ($13.8 million) stake in the UK artificial intelligence (AI) startup company Oxbotica.

Ocado food delivery van.

Logistic Businesses Continue to Invest in AI Startup Companies

Ocado believes this strategic business investment will help the online grocery company develop AI autonomous systems as it transits from vehicles in its warehouses to the ones that can deliver groceries to consumers’ homes.

Ocado said it expects to launch the first products for its warehouses in the next two years. This business partnership is non-exclusive, meaning that both companies are allowed to collaborate with other partners if they want.

"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 of Ocado.

Ocado’s business investment in the AI startup company is a part of the Series B funding round, announced in January. Oxbotica has raised a total of more than $60 million in this round, led by the investing branch of the oil and gas company BP. Other participants were BGF, Halma, pension fund HostPlus, IP Group, Tencent, Venture Science, and funds advised by Doxa Partners.

While Oxbotica hasn't unveiled the post-money business valuation, its co-founder and CTO Paul Newman confirmed that it has gone up following the last business investment.

The move comes just one day after US retail giant Walmart bought a stake in the AI startup company Cruise, owned by General Motors (GM), in a massive $2.75 billion round. Startup Savant previously reported that Cruise invested in electric vehicles (EV) company Voyage.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak last year, the demand for online grocery order and delivery services has surged substantially. Providers of such services in the UK, including Ocado, Tesco, and the US-based Instacart, have seen surging demand in 2020.

However, the competition in the market has increased swiftly as other well-funded companies wanted to capitalize on this opportunity and introduced new offerings which include next-hour delivery, special products, etc.

"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,” Newman said.

Apart from backing Oxbotica, Ocado said it plans to continue to make investments and enter into new partnerships as the business grows and expands its AI capabilities. Before Oxbotica, Ocado backed several other tech startups, such as the $262 million acquisition of two robotics companies, Kindred and Haddington, and other investments in the robotics startup companies Karakuri and Myrmex, among others.

Newman said he hopes that the new partnership will help “solve some of the world’s most complex autonomy challenges.” Still, autonomous driving technology has to face and meet a great number of regulatory and safety standards before it can be seen in fully operational commercial systems.

Summary

Online supermarket Ocado announced it is investing £10 million ($13.8 million) in the UK AI startup company Oxbotica as it expands its investment in autonomous vehicles.

About the Author


Headshot of Avi Ben Ezra

Avi Ben Ezra is the CTO and Co-founder of SnatchBot and SnatchApp (Snatch Group Limited). He leads the Group’s long-term technology vision and is responsible for running all facets of the tech business which includes being the architect of the platforms and UI interfaces.

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