Walmart Inc. has announced that a Gatik autonomous truck is now operating daily without a safety driver behind the wheel on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville. The driverless vehicle is moving customer orders between a Walmart dark store and a Neighborhood Market in its fleet of multi-temperature autonomous box trucks on a daily basis.
Gatik’s deployment with Walmart in the state 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.
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 and unlock the full advantages of autonomous delivery for Walmart’s customers: increased speed and responsiveness when fulfilling e-commerce orders, increased asset utilization and enhanced safety for all road users.
In December 2020, Gatik and Walmart received the Arkansas State Highway Commission’s first ever approval to remove the safety driver from Gatik’s autonomous trucks, following the completion of 18 months’ successful operations. 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 ground-breaking autonomous operations.
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). Gatik focuses exclusively on fixed, repeatable delivery routes to maximize safety, using proprietary, commercial-grade autonomous technology that is purpose built for B2B short-haul logistics. By constraining the operational design domain, Gatik has been able to achieve the safe removal of the safety driver much more quickly compared to other applications, such as passenger transportation or B2C delivery. The complex urban route in Bentonville involves safely navigating intersections, traffic lights and merging on dense urban roads.
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 last decade, shorter, urban routes have become more prominent, with 65 percent of all routes under 500 miles and routes under 100 miles growing by 37 percent in the past decade.