Walmart, Gatik Achieve Fully Driverless Delivery Routes in Bentonville

Gatik and Walmart announced that the autonomous trucking company is operating daily without a safety driver behind the wheel on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas. Gatik’s elimination of the safety driver in its daily operations signifies a historic milestone in the commercialization of autonomous delivery safely and at scale in the B2B short-haul logistics sector.

The multi-temperature autonomous delivery trucks move customer orders between a Walmart dark store and a Neighborhood Market in Bentonville.

According to the autonomous logistics company, 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.

Gatik is operating fully driverless on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas. Video courtesy Gatik.

“Through our work with Gatik, we’ve identified that autonomous box trucks offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeatable routes between our stores,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of last-mile at Walmart U.S. “We’re thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first, driverless milestone in our home state of Arkansas and look forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed.”

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 after completing 18 months’ successful operations.

As part of its roadmap to operating fully driverless, Gatik said it 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.

Related Article: The digital gap uncovered by the pandemic

“Arkansas and Gatik have shifted into the future with Gatik’s self-driving delivery truck,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. “It is fitting that Arkansas, which is home to the greatest retail companies in the world, is the launching pad for this innovation in retail delivery.”

Founded in 2017, the autonomous logistics company delivers goods safely and efficiently using its fleet of light and medium-duty trucks. The company focuses on short-haul, B2B logistics for Fortune 500 retailers such as Walmart and Loblaw. Gatik’s Class 3-6 Autonomous Box Trucks are commercially deployed in multiple markets, including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Ontario.

Since commencing commercial operations in 2019, Gatik has achieved a 100 percent safety record across multiple operational sites in North America. Gatik focuses exclusively on fixed, repeatable delivery routes to maximize safety, using proprietary, commercial-grade autonomous technology purpose-built for B2B short-haul logistics.

By constraining the operational design domain, Gatik said it could achieve the safe removal of the safety driver much more quickly than 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.

“This milestone signifies a revolutionary breakthrough for the autonomous trucking industry,” said Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder, Gatik. “Our deployment in Bentonville is not a one-time demonstration. These are frequent, revenue-generating, daily runs that our trucks are completing safely in a range of conditions on public roads, demonstrating the commercial and technical advantages of fully driverless operations on the middle mile. We’re thrilled to enable Walmart’s customers to reap the benefits.”

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 roads under 100 miles growing by 37 percent in the past decade. Gatik said its autonomous solution helps increase efficiencies and meet consumer needs by delivering on the promise of autonomy today.