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Gatik and Loblaw Make First Fully Driverless Deliveries in Canada

by Charles Choi
Gatik is launching of fully driverless commercial operations with Canada’s leading food and pharmacy retailer. Courtesy: Gatik, Loblaw.

Autonomous vehicle startup Gatik is partnering with Canada’s largest retailer, Loblaw, to launch the first fully driverless deliveries in Canada, the companies announced Oct. 5.

Since January 2020, Gatik and Loblaw, Canada’s leading food and pharmacy retailer, have made more than 150,000 autonomous deliveries with a safety driver on board with a 100 percent safety record. Now Gatik and Loblaw have for the first time removed the safety driver from an autonomous commercial delivery route in Canada.

“This milestone marks the expansion of Gatik’s autonomous delivery service to Loblaw’s customers across multiple sites,” Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik, said in a statement. “Canada is the latest market in which we’ve launched our fully driverless service, further validating that the tangible benefits of autonomous delivery are being realized first in B2B short-haul logistics. It’s a privilege to achieve this commercial and technical landmark with Canada’s largest retailer.”

Gatik is now moving select online grocery orders with a fleet of multi-temperature autonomous box trucks for Loblaw’s PC Express service. The service is transporting ambient, refrigerated, and frozen goods seven days a week from a Loblaw distribution facility to five nearby retail locations in the greater Toronto area on fixed, repetitive, predictable routes.

“Working with Gatik, we’ve demonstrated that autonomous driving technology enables supply chain efficiency, moving more orders more frequently for our customers,” David Markwell, chief technology and analytics officer at Loblaw, said in a statement. “Being the first in Canada with this technology and deploying a fully driverless solution is exciting and illustrates our commitment to making grocery shopping better for customers.”

Loblaw noted it commissioned an extensive third-party safety review that endorsed Gatik’s autonomous technology for fully driverless operations. The review, which took place over three months, involved physical component-, subsystem- and vehicle-level testing and evaluation of Gatik’s development and deployment processes, standards and regulatory compliance, risk assessment and control measures.

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do at Gatik,” Narang said in a statement. “We integrate safety into all facets of our business, from initial concept to commercial deployment. It spans every level of our technology, processes and operations, and resides deep in the cultural make-up of the company. We were very pleased to participate in the extensive safety review, and strongly encourage this level of scrutiny becoming standard across our industry.”

The review also included sending the autonomous vehicles degraded or incorrect sensor data; GPS jamming and spoofing to disrupt navigation; disabling brakes; and sending incorrect acceleration commands with objects in front of the vehicles. The results suggested Gatik’s autonomous technology does not create an unreasonable risk to the safety of other road users.

“Safety is not achieved by any one factor, but by the combination of best-practices, multiple layers of system redundancy, cutting edge techniques, exhaustive validation, sound engineering judgment and continually building upon our proven record of delivering exceptional results,” Apeksha Kumavat, Gatik’s co-founder and chief engineer, said in a statemenet. “We embraced the opportunity for our system to undergo a stringent review process and validate our technology ahead of commencing fully driverless operations with the country’s largest retailer.”

Gatik chalked up its 100 percent safety record in Canada and the United States to its focus on “the middle mile.” Whereas the first mile in logistics refers to the part where products or produce are taken from a factory or farm to a warehouse, and the last mile refers to the trip to a customer’s doorstep, the middle mile covers the part from a distribution center to a retail store. The company noted its tight focus on autonomous technology purpose-built for B2B short-haul logistics helped constrain the operating environments of its vehicles to maximize safety. In 2021, Gatik became the first company to operate fully driverless commercial deliveries on a middle-mile delivery route anywhere in the world with Walmart, in Walmart’s home state of Arkansas.

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