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Walmart Partners With Gatik for Autonomous Grocery Vans

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【Summary】Autonomous vehicle startup Gatik AI has partnered with Walmart and received approval from the Arkansas Highway Commissioner’s office to introduce a commercial service to deliver goods.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Aug 04, 2019 2:00 PM PT
Walmart Partners With Gatik for Autonomous Grocery Vans

Domino's, Ford, Amazon, and FedEx are all testing autonomous vehicles for delivery purposes. And now, a new company has joined the fray by partnering with an autonomous startup. With some help from autonomous vans from startup Gatik, Arkansas Walmarts are helping the retail giant shuffle groceries from its Supercenter to a few of its smaller stores in the area.


Walmart Testing Autonomous Service With Gatik AI

Gatik's autonomous vehicles will help Walmart move customer orders from its Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas down a two-mile stretch of road in Bentonville to one of two nearby stores. The idea behind testing the driverless vans is for Walmart to "learn more about the logistics of adding autonomous vehicles in our online grocery ecosystem" among other things.
 
The pilot program will operate in Arkansas and see Palo Alto, California-based Gatik operate three Ford Transit Connect vans that have been modified to drive autonomously. In California, the Transit Connect vans will run seven days a week and complete roughly 10 runs a day. Human safety operators will behind the wheel of the vehicles at all times.
 
The routes themselves are interesting because there are two possible routes the autonomous vans can take. One is a direct two-mile road from one store to another, while the other route is a little longer and covers five miles, but avoids some situations that may confuse the car. "The main aim is to do that repeatedly, safely, without a safety driver onboard," Gatik CEO Gautam Narang told Wired.


A Delivery Service For Supplies, Not Humans
 
While Gatik has large plans to take human safety drivers out of the equation, the startup isn't interested in having humans ride in its autonomous cars. Instead, it's all about supplies, groceries, or whatever else people can buy. "We don't have to wait for changing consumer behavior," said Narang.
 
Drivers in the U.S. are having trouble getting behind autonomous vehicles, as the technology is still fairly new and secluded to large cities. Instead, Gatik, as Wired points out, is all about helping companies like Walmart cut costs by reducing the amount of human labor that's involved in getting supplies from one area to another. According to Narang, the start up will help Walmart cut the cost of its trips by 50 percent.
 
Gatik is a relatively new company that came out in June, raising $4.5 million in a seed round that was led by Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors. Other companies that invested in Gatik include AngelPad, Trucks Venture Capital, and Dynamo Fund.
 
Walmart is working with multiple companies on a solution for transporting goods. Waymo and Udelv are two other brands that Walmart is working with. Those, though, have pilot programs in Arizona.

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