Gatik, the autonomous-vehicle startup focused on the “middle mile,” will begin using its self-driving trucks this summer to deliver Georgia-Pacific stationery like Dixie cups and quilted toilet paper from the North to several dozen Sam’s Club -Stores in Dallas-Forth area worth delivering.
The deliveries, which are scheduled to begin in July, are part of a multi-year commercial partnership with Georgia Pacific and KBX, the transport arm of Koch Industries. As part of the partnership, Gatik will deliver goods 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a network of 34 Sam’s Club locations. The autonomous panel vans will cover up to 300 miles per day.
But the claim is much bigger, Gautam Narang, Gatik’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.
“The first phase aims to ensure that the network is ready for AV adoption,” Narang said. “The goal is long-term. We want to use our trucks and make the network fit for nationwide expansion.”
Narang also hopes to prove that the use of smaller 26-foot Class 6 box trucks for short journeys will produce better and more mature economic fruits than larger Class 8 semi-trailers.
“It makes sense to use Class 6 because for each of our customers the emphasis and focus on just-in-time deliveries, high frequency deliveries and not having to wait for the truck to be fully loaded (before departure), He said, adding that this partnership will mark the first time that Gatik’s technology will disrupt a Class 8 regional short-haul network.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the challenges and opportunities around supply chain and logistics, Gatik was a bit of an outlier. The company built its business model around short-haul logistics rather than consumers like so many other AV startups working on sidewalk bots and robo-taxis.
Gatik developed and is now applying its autonomous vehicle technology on the “middle mile” on the premise that using smaller self-driving box trucks is more efficient than Class 8 trucks when transporting goods from distribution centers to retail locations.
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Big retailers took notice.
Gatik came out of the cover with a bang in 2019, landing Walmart as an investor and customer. Gatik first started a pilot program in Bentonville, Arkansas, which shipped goods from mid-sized Walmart fulfillment centers to neighborhood markets.
Since then, Gatik began shuttling goods for Walmart in Louisiana, began fully driverless operations (i.e., with no safety driver behind the wheel) in Bentonville, and embarked on a pilot with Loblaw Companies Limited in Ontario, Canada. The company has also expanded its network of operations to include major distribution centers.
Last year, Gatik opened an autonomous vehicle facility in Texas with a new $85 million capital injection from Koch Disruptive Technologies, the venture arm of Koch Industries, and existing investors Innovation Endeavors, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures and Trucks VC, AngelPad and Intact Ventures.