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Autonomous Trucking Startup Gatik and its Partner Walmart Make the First Fully Driverless Deliveries in the Industry

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【Summary】Autonomous truck developer Gatik and its partner Walmart Inc. have completed the world’s first fully-autonomous deliveries as part of a pilot program using self-driving vehicles developed by Gatik. The trips are entirely autonomous, as the vehicles have no safety drivers onboard. Gatik says the removal of the safety driver for its daily operations is a historic milestone in commercializing autonomous delivery in the short-haul logistics sector.

Eric Walz    Nov 08, 2021 2:55 PM PT
Autonomous Trucking Startup Gatik and its Partner Walmart Make the First Fully Driverless Deliveries in the Industry
Gatik's self-driving trucks delivering goods for Walmart are operating without safety drivers onboard.

Autonomous truck developer Gatik and its partner Walmart Inc. have completed the world's first fully-autonomous deliveries as part of a pilot program using autonomous vehicles developed by Gatik. The trips are entirely autonomous, as the vehicles have no safety drivers onboard.

Gatik says the removal of the safety driver for its daily operations is a historic milestone in commercializing autonomous delivery in the B2B short-haul logistics sector.

Gatik is a Silicon Valley-based startup that is targeting the "middle mile" logistics market with its fleet of self-driving box trucks. The company began working with Walmart in 2019.

Gatik is operating fully driverless on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, moving customer orders between a Walmart "dark store" and a Neighborhood Market in its fleet of autonomous trucks. Walmart's dark stores are fully operational versions of its regular stores, only they are closed to the public and used for fulfilling online customer orders. 

Gatik says its deployment with retailer Walmart in Arkansas marks the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver on a commercial delivery route anywhere in the world.

Gatik's fully driverless deliveries began in August 2021. The routes include repeated delivery runs multiple times per day, seven days per week on public roads with the goal of offering autonomous delivery for Walmart's customers. The complex urban route in Bentonville involves safely navigating intersections, traffic lights and merging on dense urban roads.

"Through our work with Gatik, we've identified that autonomous box trucks offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeatable routes between our stores," said Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile at Walmart U.S. "We're thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first, driverless milestone in our home state of Arkansas and look forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed."

Gatik and Walmart received the Arkansas State Highway Commission's first ever approval to remove the safety driver from Gatik's autonomous trucks in Dec. 2020 after 18 months of successful test operations. The company's long-term goal is to offer fully driverless delivery services with the highest level of safety.

Gatlik was co-founded in 2017 by two brothers, Gautam Narang and Arjun Narang, along with Apeksha Kumavat. The company is headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, but also has an office in Toronto. Gautam serves as CEO and Arjun is the company's CTO. 

The three co-founders have been working together in the field of robotics, AI and machine learning and spent over a decade developing the company's autonomous driving technology. Unlike companies developing self-driving vehicles designed to carry passengers, Gatik focuses exclusively on autonomous delivery routes for B2B short-haul logistics. 

"This milestone signifies a revolutionary breakthrough for the autonomous trucking industry," said Gatik CEO and co-founder, Gautam Narang.  "Our deployment in Bentonville is not a one-time demonstration. These are frequent, revenue-generating, daily runs that our trucks are completing safely in a range of conditions on public roads, demonstrating the commercial and technical advantages of fully driverless operations on the middle mile. We're thrilled to enable Walmart's customers to reap the benefits."

The demand for middle mile delivery has increased rapidly due to the rise of e-commerce, which spiked during the pandemic of last year. Gatik claims its the only company in North America operating Class 3-6 Autonomous Box Trucks for B2B delivery with Fortune 500 customers. The company says its generating revenue with every delivery order.

In Sept, Gatik announced a $85 million funding round. The funding was led by new investor Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), which is known for supporting high-growth companies. The latest funding round brough the total amount raised by Gatik to $114.5 million. 

Gatik said it will use the funding to scale North America's first autonomous middle mile logistics network. 

Also in September, Gatik also announced that it's expanding its operations in Texas. The company opened a new autonomous trucking facility in Fort Worth which will serve as a hub for Gatik's operations in the state as it continues to scale its autonomous delivery operations. 

Gatik is one of over 50 companies granted an autonomous vehicle testing permit in its home state of California that allows it to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state. Others include Tesla, Waymo, Apple Inc. and Zoox.


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