Gatik, a Palo Alto-based startup developing autonomous vehicles for business to business short-haul logistics, has launched a new platform to serve the supply chain’s so-called middle mile – the autonomous box truck. (See video below.)
Gatik’s self-driving fleet of multi-temperature box trucks range in size between 11 and 20 feet long. This makes Gatik the first company 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.
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.
With essentials in short supply on shelves across America, Gatik’s middle mile solution is versatile, sustainable, and most importantly safe and reliable.
Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik, says: “The supply chain is more critical than ever in times of crisis – and crisis also highlights already weak links.
“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 enables customers to drastically optimize their hub-and-spoke operations and ensure essential supplies get where they’re needed – transporting anything from medical supplies and equipment, to frozen and fresh foods, to everyday items that make us feel safe and secure.”
The troublesome ‘middle mile’
Vehicles equipped with Gatik’s proprietary autonomous driving technology move goods on fixed, repeatable routes between distribution centers and stores.
This transport, known as the middle mile, is the most expensive and challenging part of the supply chain for retailers.
It’s also a hugely underserved segment of the autonomous vehicle market, with most innovation focusing on either moving people, or on sidewalk robots or long-haul trucking.
The company worked closely with its retail customers to design the right form factor to address today’s rapidly shifting market and help them automate their on-road logistics.
Gatik says that, along with being “perfectly built” for urban, suburban and highway driving, its sensor suite offers “unparalleled safety”.
The key to Gatik’s success involves optimizing fixed, predetermined routes, such as those used along the supply chain’s middle mile, countless times each day.
The biggest threat to the autonomous revolution is the unknown, or “edge cases”, which are substantially reduced on fixed journeys, enabling vehicles fitted with Gatik’s technology to safely and seamlessly navigate their delivery routes in a range of environments.
Gatik’s solution for hub-and-spoke operations enhances inventory pooling across multiple locations, allowing for multiple deliveries per day, while fueling elasticity and scalability without adding labour costs.
Santosh Sankar, partner, Dynamo Ventures, says: “The vast majority of Gatik’s competitors are focusing on B2C (business to consumer) deliveries or passenger transportation and as a result, attempting to build an all-environment AV (autonomous vehicle) solution with very generic geofencing.
“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.”
Success shows scalability
Gatik has been successfully operating its autonomous vehicles with multiple retail customers across North America including Walmart since July 2019.
The company says this is an “industry-first” – the deployment of a revenue-generating hub-and-spoke autonomous vehicle delivery model – and is proof of commercialization and scalability for Gatik’s use case and market.
Narang says: “The logistics space has been struggling to keep up with today’s consumer demand, rising costs and driver shortages. With Covid-19, we know that these struggles are even more pronounced.
“Gatik’s box truck solution offers customers both a service and a philosophy – we’re optimizing hub and spoke supply chain operations, dramatically reducing costs and achieving a shared ethical responsibility to enhance public health and improve road and environmental safety.
“We’re not only addressing critical industry pain points but building a logistics community that is safe, reliable and high-functioning.”
“Our mission is to deliver goods safely and efficiently with AVs (autonomous vehicles). With these new autonomous box trucks, we are not just promising for the future – we’re delivering right now.”