Several companies have been on driverless technology. While some are in the advanced stage, others are working to make a way forward. Amid all this Silicon Valley startup Gatik has provided fully driverless trucks to Walmart and are being used without safety drivers. Walmart has now revealed that it has been using these fully driverless trucks since August. The retail giant said that this is helping the company in increasing capacity and reducing inefficiencies. Walmart is using these trucks on a seven-mile loop between a distribution center and a Walmart store in Arkansas. These trucks carry online grocery orders from the fulfillment center known as ‘dark store’. The company said that they have been using two autonomous box trucks without any drivers. These trucks operate daily for around 12 hours. The trucks carrying online orders deliver them to Walmart Neighbourhood Market grocery store. For the uninitiated, Walmart is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. The partnership between Gatik and Walmart is mainly focusing on the so-called middle mile. They are for now targeting to maintain a supply chain from a warehouse to a retailer and from a warehouse to a fulfillment center. These are very often covered routes and therefore the prime focus of the partnership. Walmart said that these fully driverless vehicles will help increase the company its responsiveness when carrying out e-commerce orders.
Walmart senior vice president Tom Ward said that they are very excited to achieve this industry-first driverless milestone. “We are thrilled with the partnership with Gatik that has helped us to achieve this industry-first fully autonomous milestone. This partnership with Gatik has helped us realize that autonomous box trucks are a very safe, efficient, and sustainable solution when it comes to transporting goods on a fixed route. Very often we need to transport goods between our stores various times in a day,” Ward said. Gatik chief executive officer Gautam Narang said that removing drivers from these self-driving vehicles is the holy grail of autonomous technology. “This is a huge compliment for us as we have gained the trust of the world’s largest retailer. It will give a massive boost to what we have been doing. This is also a validation of our technology and proves that our approach towards fully self-driving vehicles was absolutely correct. The company is proud that it is helping Walmart in achieving its daily goal more efficiently,” Narang said.
Walmart, the biggest seller of grocery items in the United States, has been testing these autonomous trucks of Gatik as part of its transition to a ‘hub and spoke’ model. The model is famous as this works on the concept of distributing groceries or products to consumers or retailers from dark stores. The testing is going on in areas where a dark store is very close to retail stores and consumers. According to Gatik, its autonomous vehicles are capable of reducing logistics costs by up to 30 percent for those who are in the grocery business. This is very crucial as the grocery business typically has a very thin margin of 2-4 percent. Walmart and Gatik are also doing a similar test in the New Orleans area. Here they are using an electric box truck with safety drivers. These trucks are being used to deliver online grocery orders. These trucks pick orders from Walmart Supercenter and deliver them to a customer pickup location.