Autonomous vehicle startup Gatik announced this week a new platform to serve the supply chain’s middle mile: the autonomous box truck. According to the company, it’s the first to develop autonomous box trucks capable of delivering ambient, cold, and frozen goods.
“Retailers today face unprecedented challenges in the supply chain, and autonomous delivery vehicles address two of the essentials: safety and reliability,” the company said in a press announcement.
“Autonomous delivery vehicles reduce human-to-human transmission channels of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases and help minimize disruption to the supply chain brought on by the pandemic.”
“The supply chain is more critical than ever in times of crisis — and crisis also highlights already weak links,” said Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik in the statement. “Consumers’ needs and wants have changed dramatically, but the existing supply chain foundation is inelastic and doesn’t support growth or unexpected changes in demand.”
Gatik said its solution is intended to optimize an organization’s hub-and-spoke operations and ensure transport of supplies, including medical supplies and equipment, frozen and fresh foods, and everyday items.
Vehicles equipped with Gatik’s proprietary autonomous driving technology move goods on fixed, repeatable routes between distribution centers and stores. Gatik’s self-driving fleet of multi-temperature box trucks ranges in size between 11 and 20 feet long.
According to Gatik, the middle mile is an underserved segment of the AV market, with most innovation focusing on either moving people, or on sidewalk robots or long-haul trucking.
Gatik’s model focuses on optimizing fixed, predetermined routes, such as those used along the supply chain’s middle mile. Fixed journeys reduce transportation’s unknown “edge cases,” which most autonomous systems can’t yet handle.
“The vast majority of Gatik’s competitors are focusing on B2C deliveries or passenger transportation and as a result, attempting to build an all-environment AV solution with very generic geofencing,” said Santosh Sankar, Partner, Dynamo Ventures, in the statement.
“These models pose complex challenges, require specific technologies, and will take a long time to mature. Whereas others in the AV space are having to accept their timelines for deployment need to be adjusted, Gatik has been quietly and successfully delivering a wide range of goods on behalf of its customers and generating significant revenue as it does so.”
Gatik has been working with Walmart since July 2019, delivering online grocery orders (with a backup safety driver) from Walmart’s main warehouse to its neighborhood stores in Bentonville, Ark.