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Gatik CEO on why middle-mile autonomy is the future of the supply chain

Gautam Narang will deliver an industry keynote at FreightWaves’ The Future of Supply Chain event

Gatik CEO Gautam Narang will detail middle-mile autonomy’s role in the future of the supply chain at FreightWaves’ upcoming The Future of Supply Chain conference. (Photo: Gatik)

With all the focus on autonomous vehicles in the heavy-duty truck space, and electric vehicles in the last-mile delivery space, one company has carved out a niche that has placed it at the forefront of automation.

Gatik, the middle-mile autonomous technology company, spent 2021 investing in its future and conducting successful tests of its technology. In fact, to date, its autonomous vehicles have recorded zero accidents in its test programs, as of late January. New data has not been released.

Sam Saad, vice president of strategic initiatives at the firm, told Modern Shipper during the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City in January that partnerships with Isuzu, Goodyear (NASDAQ: GT), Ryder and sensor companies along with the closing of an $85 million series B round of funding have positioned Gatik to focus on expanding its test programs, hire new engineers and triple the size of the company in 2022.

Attendees at FreightWaves’ upcoming The Future of Supply Chain event in Northwest Arkansas will have the chance to hear from Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang, who will deliver the industry keynote address.

The Future of Supply Chain will include exclusive VIP experiences, rapid-fire demos, interactive sponsor kiosks and engaging discussions about the key factors impacting the supply chain. It will take place May 9-10 at the Rogers Convention Center in Northwest Arkansas. You can register here:

Additional keynote speakers are Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Billy Beane, executive vice president of baseball operations for the Oakland A’s and the subject of the book and movie “Moneyball”; Jonathan Hoffman, former chief spokesman for the Pentagon; and Michael Schrage, research fellow at the MIT Sloan School Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Headline sponsor is J.B. Hunt 360 and title sponsors include ArcBest, Emerge, Lean Solutions Group, Ryder and TriumphPay.

Watch: What to expect at the Future of Supply Chain

Narang told Modern Shipper his keynote address will focus on three main themes: supply chain issues, how companies can address these, and the “invisible mile.”

It’s that last one — the invisible mile — that Gatik is looking to address, and in doing so, it helps solve the first two. Narang said his company has recently inked a deal with a transportation firm that wants to use two of Gatik’s Class 6 autonomous vehicles to replace a single Class 8 tractor-trailer.

“This customer, they want to do this across their supply chain,” he said. “These customers want to make frequent, faster deliveries.”

Of course, Gatik’s most famous test is with Walmart. In November 2021, the company announced that it had begun truly autonomous tests in Bentonville, Arkansas, removing the safety driver from the driver’s seat (there is a driver in the passenger seat that can stop the vehicle in an emergency situation).

“This is not a one-off thing. This is not a demo. This is us doing commercial deliveries for Walmart,” Narang told Modern Shipper at the time. “Obviously the team is very excited. The plan is to expand this to different markets.”

Gatik has been running the pilots in Bentonville since 2019. The company’s box trucks run product from a Walmart (NYSE: WMT) dark store in Bentonville to a Neighborhood Market. Narang said the routes are fixed and repeatable, covering 7.1 miles round trip over both urban and suburban roads. The route includes a mix of vehicle types and pedestrians, and the trucks move at speeds up to 45 mph. Two trucks are making between four and six total runs a day.

The kind of support and welcome we received was amazing. Very few states have been this involved working with the adopter on what makes sense and what kind of polices make sense. Our experience in the area and the state of Arkansas has been amazing.

Gautam Narang, Ceo & co-founder of gatik

Gatik has also announced it is running pilots of the technology in Louisiana with Walmart and in Ontario, Canada, with Loblaw Cos. Those programs continue to have a driver in the seat.

The company has started operations in Texas as part of the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ). MIZ is a purpose-built industrial development in north Texas that has been designed as a hub of supply chain innovation.

But Northwest Arkansas is leading the country in supply chain innovation, with dozens of companies setting up shop in the region. Narang said the state and local governments have been very supportive of Gatik’s work.

Arkansas has created the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility. Created by executive order in February, the council will work to advance mobility technologies. Cyrus Sigari, co-founder of UP Partners, will serve as chairman of the council, which will include representatives from Walmart, Canoo, J.B. Hunt, Entergy, Arkansas Trucking Association, Arkansas Auto Dealers Association, the University of Arkansas, Southern Arkansas University Tech, and several state agencies.

“In Arkansas, we take on some of the biggest challenges,” Hutchinson said in announcing the council. “We work for solutions and that is what this council is doing. We want to lead in future mobility.”

Count Narang among those who are thankful for the support the state, local governments and now the council are providing.

“The kind of support and welcome we received was amazing,” Narang said. “Very few states have been this involved working with the adopter on what makes sense and what kind of policies make sense. Our experience in the area and the state of Arkansas has been amazing.”

Earlier in 2021, Gatik announced an $85 million series B funding round, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies with participation from existing investors Innovation Endeavors, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures and others, including Ryder (NYSE: R), which will lease trucks and provide maintenance service to Gatik.

Narang expects attendees at The Future of Supply Chain to come away with a better understanding of Gatik and its place in the future of the supply chain.

“Gatik is the leader in commercial deliveries, and as of today Gatik is the only company doing autonomous deliveries without anyone behind the steering wheel on a daily basis,” he said. “This is a different ballgame altogether.”

Narang said he hoped the audience leaves his keynote “with a bit more information on the use case” for middle-mile autonomy.

“I call this the invisible mile … because it is not as sexy as the long haul with the big rigs [but] middle mile is where there is opportunity,” he added. “You are talking about shorter routes. It’s niche, but it’s a huge niche.”

Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]