After a year in which it secured key supplier agreements and expanded its operations base, middle-mile autonomous vehicle provider Gatik is prepared to accelerate its growth and reach this year.
“We are going into sustainable growth,” Sam Saad, vice president of strategic initiatives at the firm, told Modern Shipper during the recent National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City.
Saad said partnerships with Isuzu, Goodyear (NASDAQ: GT), Ryder and sensor companies and the closing of an $85 million series B round of funding have positioned Gatik to focus on expanding its testing programs, hire new engineers and triple the size of the company in 2022.
“All of these ingredients will allow us to go supersonic,” he added.
Saad said Gatik would be focused on four key tenets as it grows: saving and efficiency, reliability, sustainability, and safety.
“For us, safety is table stakes,” Saad said. “We need to operate safer than a human driver.”
“Internally we have a very high bar for safety,” Narang noted in August. “We take a very defensive style of driving, so anything the system doesn’t recognize [we avoid]. The use cases we have chosen and the way we have approached this makes for a very compelling safety argument. We have taken baby steps. We are confident and we are doing it today.”
Saad said Gatik is focused on increasing cost savings when using its vehicles and driving further efficiency, which includes reliability of the vehicles.
“Once you have the vehicle, you [want to] know it’s going to produce for you,” Saad said.
In October, Gatik announced a relationship with Ryder (NYSE: R) to provide vehicle lease and maintenance services. Gatik will outfit the vehicles with its self-driving technology that backbones its autonomous delivery as a service (ADaaS) model. Ryder will maintain the vehicles, including calibration of its autonomous vehicle sensors and necessary pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
Ryder’s investment arm, Ryder Ventures, also made an undisclosed investment in the company as part of the series B round. The two companies will explore additional opportunities, including the possibility of Ryder managing the logistics operations of Gatik’s autonomous fleet so Gatik can focus on development of the ADaas platform.
Gatik in August joined the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone in Texas. That program leverages a purpose-built industrial development in North Texas as a hub of supply chain innovation. The development plays host to a number of companies, including autonomous vehicle developer TuSimple, drone companies and railroads. All the companies participating in the program are involved in moving live freight.
Watch: Innovative last-mile solutions
Gatik has been running pilot programs with Walmart (NYSE: WMT) in Arkansas and New Orleans and with Loblaw Cos. (TSX: L.TO) in Ontario, Canada. In Arkansas, Gatik’s autonomous vehicles move items along a 7.1-mile route from a Walmart dark store (a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public) to a Walmart neighborhood market in Bentonville.
The advancement that garnered the most attention in 2021 was the announcement that safety drivers were no longer sitting behind the steering wheel on vehicles running routes for Walmart in Bentonville. Personnel remain in the passenger seat with access to emergency braking should it be needed.
“This is not a one-off thing. This is not a demo. This is us doing commercial deliveries for Walmart,” Narang told Modern Shipper in November. “Obviously the team is very excited. The plan is to expand this to different markets.”
2022 may be the year that happens.