Gatik, a Palo Alto CA-based startup deploying autonomous vehicles (AVs) for business-to-business, short-haul logistics, recently debuted a new autonomous box truck platform designed to serve the supply chain’s middle mile.
The company’s self-driving fleet of multi-temperature box trucks ranges in size from 11 feet to 20 feet long. Gatik says it is the first company to develop autonomous box trucks capable of delivering ambient, cold and frozen goods.
Gatik claims the autonomous delivery vehicles address two supply-chain challenges: safety and reliability, saying the 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 many shelves, Gatik’s middle-mile solution is “versatile, sustainable, and most importantly safe and reliable.”
“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. “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.”
Vehicles equipped with Gatik’s proprietary autonomous driving technology can move goods on fixed, repeatable routes between distribution centers and stores, the company maintained. Gatik worked with retail customers to design the right form factor to address today’s rapidly shifting market, and help automate on-road logistics.
The key to the technology’s success involves optimizing fixed, predetermined routes. The biggest threat to the autonomous vehicles is the unknown, or “edge cases,” Gatik said, which are reduced on fixed journeys, enabling vehicles fitted with Gatik’s technology to safely navigate 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.
“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 at Dynamo Ventures. “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 says it has successfully operated its autonomous vehicles with multiple retail customers across North America, including Walmart, since July 2019; and called the deployment of a revenue-generating, hub-and-spoke AV delivery model an industry first.
“The logistics space has been struggling to keep up with today’s consumer demand, rising costs and driver shortages,” Narang said. “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.”