Truck manufacturer Isuzu North America and autonomous vehicle startup Gatik will collaborate on a fully autonomous medium-duty truck, the companies announced Tuesday.
The collaboration will see Gatik install its autonomous driving technology into Isuzu N-Series truck models to create a Level 4 self-driving vehicle. The first test vehicles are expected to be deployed later this year.
“By bringing these two teams together, we can create segment-changing technology while positioning Gatik to safely commercialize autonomous delivery technology at scale,” said Gautam Narang, Gatik’s CEO and co-founder. “Isuzu N-Series trucks have been bestsellers in their class in the combined U.S.-Canadian market for 35 consecutive years, making them an ideal fit for our solution. We are excited to combine our industry-leading expertise and bring a long-term, sustainable solution to the supply chain.”
Isuzu offers the N-Series in several capacities spanning Class 3 with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 12,000 pounds and payload capacity of 6,796 pounds, up to a Class 5 vehicle with GWR of 17,950 pounds and payload capacity up to 12,289 pounds. The low-cab-forward designed vehicles are typically available with either a gas or diesel engine option.
The test vehicle is an Isuzu NRR Class 5 19,500 gross vehicle weight diesel model.
“As customer requirements for the medium-duty product evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, having the ability to collaborate with Gatik, an industry leader in autonomous technology is very exciting for our team,” said Takashi Sadaoka, president and CEO of Isuzu North America Corp.
Gatik’s technology includes lidar, radar and cameras. It recently began testing electric-powered autonomous vehicles in Louisiana in a pilot with Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which is already involved in pilot programs with Gatik in Arkansas.
The electric vehicles in the Walmart pilot are based on a Ford Transit 350 HD chassis platform and feature Via Motor’s electric powertrain.
Gatik is working to solve the “middle-mile” problem that most companies deploying autonomous vehicles are ignoring. The Arkansas test with Walmart is the type of middle-mile solution Gatik is trying to solve. In that program, Gatik’s autonomous vehicles move items along a two-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.
E-commerce growth has increased the need for middle-mile solutions for retailers. Gatik also has a multiyear partnership with Loblaw Cos. (TSX: L), one of Canada’s largest grocers, that includes deployment of a fleet of autonomous delivery vehicles in Toronto.
In February, Walmart’s Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product, said the company would begin testing Gatik vehicles without a driver in the seat this year. All testing to date has included a safety driver in the vehicle.