American startup uses autonomous box trucks for ‘middle mile’ deliveries
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The American startup Gatik, specialising in autonomous vehicle transport, expands its offer and makes deliveries with larger vehicles. The decision to introduce ‘middle mile’ box trucks is driven by the needs of the company’s customers.
Gatik debuted on the American market a year ago with a game plan – and Walmart as a customer – to haul goods short distances for retailers and distributors using self-driving commercial delivery vans. The startup launched a commercial service with Walmart to deliver online grocery orders. Initially, Gatik used light commercial trucks and vans – specifically Ford Transit Connect vans – that were outfitted with its self-driving system, reports techcrunch.com. Although autonomous, vehicles require an operator who can intervene and take over the wheel if necessary.
Introducing bigger temperature-controlled vehicles was a response to the needs of the market and the main customer, Walmart, which wanted to increase transport efficiency and strengthen the supply chain. This is a natural step in the face of growing online sales. Walmart, just like other grocery chains in the U.S., was struggling to keep up with the growing demand of online grocery pickup and delivery even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
I think this is going to last because the crisis is shaping how consumers do their shopping,” said Gautam Narang, Gatik’s CEO and co-founder.
Gatik’s new fleet of 10 vehicles is used to serve multiple Fortune 500 companies across North America, according to the startup. Each vehicle completes between 6 to 15 runs a day. Gatik has used its box trucks to deliver more than 15,000 orders since operations began.
Micro fulfilment or distribution centres are all the rage right now — that’s basically the wave that we’re riding,” Narang said for techcrunch.com. “Companies are targeting warehouse automation for micro fulfilment centres. They’re automating the warehouses, and we’re automating the on-road logistics,” he adds.
The startup’s CEO believes that it is possible to pull the human safety driver out of the vehicle.
It’s an achievable goal because the company has focused on repeatable predetermined routes and has introduced constraints that simplify the technical challenge. For instance, Gatik vehicles don’t make multiple lane changes and only make right turns,” Narang added.