- Gatik has launched its first fully autonomous commercial truck operations in Canada, working with retailer Loblaw Companies to deliver online grocery orders, the startup announced Wednesday.
- A fleet of fully autonomous refrigerated box trucks are completing runs for Loblaw’s PC Express service, the food retailer’s online pickup and delivery service.
- The two companies launched their partnership in Toronto in January 2020, and now have five trucks operating 12-hour days without drivers, according to Gatik.
When the partnership began, Gatik used safety drivers in trucks, and the companies noted that the shift to fully driverless operations comes as Loblaw faces increasing demand. Customers now expect next-day, same-day and two-hour deliveries, Gatik co-founder and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat said in a promotional video.
The cost-savings and efficiencies of autonomous vehicles mean middle mile operations between micro-fulfillment centers and retail stores can happen multiple times per day instead of only once or twice per week, she said.
Gatik reached the fully autonomous milestone in the U.S. in 2021 with a program in Bentonville, Arkansas. Driverless box trucks began transporting customer orders between a Walmart dark store and a Neighborhood Market store, the company announced last November.
Industry competition has followed suit with similar technology breakthroughs. A month later in December 2021, TuSimple also noted its autonomous semi-truck operated “on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention.”
Eric Novak, a professor with Toronto-based Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, commented that other companies are very close, if not on par, with Gatik’s progress.
“In limited scope situations like what we are seeing through this release, I don't think we are too far away from seeing more and more utilization,” he wrote in a message to Transport Dive. “In controlled situations, the technology today has been proven safe and effective through significant testing.”