Home Fleets and TrucksAutomated Fleets Walmart and Gatik Operating Fully Autonomous Trucks on the Middle Mile

Walmart and Gatik Operating Fully Autonomous Trucks on the Middle Mile

by Charles Choi
A Gatik truck on its delivery route in Bentonville, Arkansas. Gatik is operating daily fully autonomous trucks without safety drivers behind the wheel. Courtesy: Business Wire.

In a first in the autonomous trucking industry worldwide, Walmart and autonomous vehicle startup Gatik have begun fully driverless autonomous truck deliveries from a warehouse to a retail store, the companies announced Nov. 8.

Gatik is operating a fleet of multi-temperature autonomous box trucks without a human safety driver behind the wheel on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, daily navigating a complex urban route involving safely intersections, traffic lights and merging on dense urban roads.. The partnership moves customer orders between one of Walmart’s neighborhood markets and one of its “dark stores”—a retail space that isn’t open for in-store shopping, developed to exclusively fulfill online orders.

Gatik’s deployment with Walmart represents the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver from a commercial delivery route on the “middle mile” anywhere in the world. (In logistics, the first mile refers to the part where products or produce are taken from a factory or farm to a warehouse; the middle mile covers the part from a distribution center to a retail store; and the last mile refers to the trip to a customer’s doorstep.)

“Through our work with Gatik, we’ve identified that autonomous box trucks offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeatable routes between our stores,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile at Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first, driverless milestone in our home state of Arkansas and look forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed.”

Gatik’s fully driverless operations, which began in August 2021, involve consistent, repeated delivery runs multiple times per day, seven days per week on public roads. Gatik and Walmart received the Arkansas State Highway Commission’s first ever approval to remove the safety driver from Gatik’s autonomous trucks in December, following the completion of 18 months of successful operations. 

“This milestone signifies a revolutionary breakthrough for the autonomous trucking industry,” Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik, said in a statement. “Our deployment in Bentonville is not a one-time demonstration. These are frequent, revenue-generating, daily runs that our trucks are completing safely in a range of conditions on public roads, demonstrating the commercial and technical advantages of fully driverless operations on the middle mile. We’re thrilled to enable Walmart’s customers to reap the benefits.”

Gatik noted that as retailers turn increasingly to hub-and-spoke distribution models to meet consumer needs, the middle mile has emerged as a critical component of the supply chain. In the past decade, shorter, urban routes have become more prominent, with 65% of all routes under 500 miles and routes under 100 miles growing by 37% in the past decade.

Since commencing commercial operations in 2019, Gatik has achieved a 100 percent safety record across multiple operational sites in North America, including Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Ontario. As part of its roadmap to operating fully driverless, Gatik undertook a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy, involving state and local leadership and emergency services, and will continue to hold ongoing informational workshops concerning its autonomous operations.

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