Silicon Valley-based start-up Gatik is progressing very quickly in shorter-haul, middle-mile autonomous deliveries for major retailers. Auto Futures talks with Gautam Narang, CEO and Co-Founder, Gatik about its latest partnership and its plans for the future of autonomous fixed-route deliveries.
Gatik has just announced that it is partnering with Isuzu North America Corporation on developing and testing fully autonomous medium-duty trucks. Gatik’s autonomous SAE Level 4 driving technology will be deployed in Isuzu medium-duty N-Series trucks.
“The good news about Isuzu is that it is an OEM that is firmly at the middle duty market,” says Narang, “There will be a full suite of actuators and drive-by-wire. There is double redundancy for safety.”
In a press release, Takashi Sadaoka, President and CEO of Isuzu North America Corporation, states: “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.”
Thanks to the cooperative efforts of Gatik’s and Isuzu’s engineering teams, the first vehicles will be deployed this year.
Aiming at the Middle-Mile Market
Narang says Gatik’s ‘secret sauce’ is the software that it uses to drive the vehicles. He explains the choice for middle-mile deliveries: “We don’t want to boil down the ocean. We want to use a fixed route.”
Robotic systems are not new to brothers and Co-Founders, Gautam and Arjun. Their mother, a science teacher, taught them well. They grew up going to many science fairs.
First, they worked together on a humanoid robotic project in 2008. Then, Gautam was exposed to mobile automotive autonomous systems at Carnegie Mellon University. They started the company in 2017. The Gatik name comes from the Sanskrit word ‘gatik’, which means progressive.
“It works out really well,” says Narang, about the Co-Founders of Gatik, “Arjun is the detailed person. He is very meticulous. I’m fast and I like to get things done quickly. Apeksha Kumavat (Chief Engineer) is a workhorse at technology for everything.”
“We have at least 10 years or more to go before fully going autonomous. The business vehicle shot is for the middle-mile,” says Narang.
Gatik worked with Walmart in Arkansas to deliver from the local warehouse to retail stores because it was a good fit, says Narang. Then they expanded with Walmart for deliveries in Louisiana.
Gatik also autonomously delivers goods in refrigerated Ford Transit 350 Box trucks from the picking facility to Loblaw retail locations in Toronto, Canada. In March, the company announced that Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network’s R&D Partnership Fund awarded Gatik $997,706, along with $8,000,000 to help winterize its autonomous driving technology.
We will be the first company to take drivers out of mid-mile delivery this year.
Gatik is also collaborating with Canadian universities.
“Our relationship with the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo is helping us with cold and severe weather conditions,” says Narang.
“We are working with other Fortune 500 companies,” says Narang. He will not reveal the company names.
The distance the trucks drive can be up to 300 miles(482.8 km). The Gatik AI works with class three (3) to six (6) trucks.
All the autonomous vehicles are backed by a remote supervisor If there is something like a major change such as severe weather, road work or a tree falling in the road, the supervisor will be contacted. The supervisor is always in the loop to figure out what to do. There is a full 360° view with lidars, radar and cameras that can detect pedestrians, cyclists, dogs, cats, and obstructions, says Narang.
“No matter what it is, we can handle it. We do not have the trolley problem of occupied vehicles,” says Narang. Gatik can navigate on urban roads, highways and public roads.
The company is also keen on developing electric trucks that can charge during loading and unloading, says Narang.
There is currently a shortage of truck drivers. Gatik will be removing human drivers from the trucks soon.
“We will be the first company to take drivers out of mid-mile delivery this year,” says Narang, “We will be the first to be fully autonomous.”