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Autonomous Logistics Startup Gatik Plans to Deploy its Fully-Autonomous Trucks in Kansas With No Safety Drivers Onboard

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【Summary】Silicon Valley-based autonomous middle-mile logistics startup Gatik is deploying its self-driving trucks on public roads in Kansas, after the state’s Governor Laura Kelly signed “Senate Bill 313” which allows for deployment of fully-driverless vehicles on public roads in the state.

Eric Walz    May 19, 2022 9:00 AM PT
Autonomous Logistics Startup Gatik Plans to Deploy its Fully-Autonomous Trucks in Kansas With No Safety Drivers Onboard
Gatik is deploying its fully-autonomous Class-6 trucks on public roads in Kansas in partnership with Walmart.

Silicon Valley-based autonomous middle-mile logistics startup Gatik is deploying its self-driving trucks on public roads in Kansas, after the state's Governor Laura Kelly signed "Senate Bill 313" which allows for deployment of fully-driverless vehicles on public roads in the state.

The new signed law helps pave the way for enhanced road safety and improve the efficiency of middle-mile logistics.

The newly signed legislation in Kansas makes it the 25th state in the U.S. that allows fully autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads.

Gatik said it worked closely with Walmart and other key stakeholders in the state, including the Kansas Department of Transportation (DOT), the House and Senate and the Kansas Sheriffs' Association to develop and propose legislation that prioritizes the safe and structured introduction of autonomous vehicles in the state. 

Before any deployment on public roads, Gatik said it will work closely with state and local authorities to provide education and training sessions to law enforcement and first responders as part of its comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy.

"We are excited to bring our autonomous fleet to the state of Kansas, and ensure that the advantages of autonomous delivery on the middle mile can be realized by Kansans in the near-term," said Richard Steiner, Head of Policy, Gatik. "We applaud Governor Kelly for taking a proactive approach to enabling the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles, and look forward to laying down roots in the state of Kansas, creating a wealth of new jobs and delivering essential goods to Kansans with speed and efficiency."

While other companies like Waymo, Aurora and TuSimple are developing driverless Class-8 trucks for long-haul freight delivery, Gatik focuses exclusively on autonomous delivery routes for the growing "middle mile" B2B logistics with its fleet of self-driving Class 3-6 box trucks. The company began working with Walmart in 2019 on an autonomous delivery pilot.

Gatik focuses exclusively on fixed delivery routes to maximize safety on the supply chain's middle mile.

Gatik is currently operating a fully driverless 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 so-called dark stores are fully operational versions of its regular retail stores, only they are closed to the public and used for fulfilling online customer orders. 

In Nov 2021, Gatik and Walmart completed the world's first fully-autonomous deliveries as part of a pilot program in Arkansas using autonomous trucks developed by Gatik. The trips are entirely autonomous, as the trucks have no safety drivers onboard.

The deployment last year with 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. With the new law in place, Gatik will now expand these same logistics operations to the state of Kansas.

In 2019, Walmart and Gatik proposed legislation in Arkansas to pave the way for commercial operations for autonomous trucks. In 2020, the companies received the first approval ever granted by the Arkansas State Highway Commission to remove the safety driver from Gatik's autonomous trucks, after the completion of 18 months' successful operations using safety drivers behind the wheel. 

Gatik's self-driving trucks will help address chronic shortages of drivers. But they also allow for higher utilization, as the autonomous vehicles do not require mandatory breaks that human drivers do, which results in less down time for shippers like Walmart.

The autonomous trucks also offer a higher level of safety, with a suite of cameras, lidar, radar installed on each vehicle that provides complete perception 360 coverage around the trucks for safe operation. 

Gatlik was co-founded in 2017 by two brothers, Gautam Narang and Arjun Narang, along with Apeksha Kumavat. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, California with a satellite office in Toronto. Gautam serves as CEO and Arjun is the company's CTO. 

Before founding the company, the three co-founders have worked together in the field of robotics, AI and machine learning and spent over a decade developing the company's autonomous driving technology stack. 

Gatik claims its the only company in North America operating Class 3-6 Autonomous Box Trucks for B2B delivery with Fortune 500 customers like Walmart. The company also says its generating revenue with every delivery order. 

The demand for middle mile delivery has increased rapidly due to the rise of e-commerce, which spiked during the pandemic of last year. 

In Sept 2021, Gatik announced a $85 million funding round led by new investor Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), which is known for supporting high-growth companies. Existing investors Innovation Endeavors, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures and others also participated in the round.  

The latest funding brings the total amount raised by Gatik to $114.5 million. Gatik said it will use the funds to scale North America's first autonomous middle mile logistics network. 

After the latest funding round, Gatik announced that it's expanding its autonomous logistics operations to Texas. The company opened a new autonomous trucking facility in Fort Worth, which will serve as a hub for its operations in the state.

Earlier this month, Gatik received an honorable mention from Fast Company in its annual 2022 World Changing Ideas list for its fully-driverless logistics operations. 

Since launching its commercial operations in 2019, Gatik said it has achieved a 100 percent safety record in North America.


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