Walmart is the first retailer to operate a fullydriverless “middle-mile” delivery route.
On its delivery route in Bentonville, AR, it’s moving customer orders between a Walmart dark store and a Neighborhood Market using autonomous delivery trucks without a safety driver behind the wheel.
Walmart’s deployment of Gatik’s fleet of multi-temperature autonomous box trucks marks the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver from a commercial delivery route on the middle mile anywhere in the world.
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. The retailer expects autonomous delivery to provide its customers increased speed and responsiveness when fulfilling e-commerce orders, increased asset utilization and enhanced safety for all road users.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
The two companies first launched a pilot of driverless deliveries on a two-mile route between the dark store and local Neighborhood Market store in Bentonville in July 2019. Gatik, a startup deploying autonomous vehicles for B2B short-haul logistics, launched from stealth with Walmart as a partner in June the month before. 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.
As part of its roadmap to operating fully driverless, Gatik undertook a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy, involving state and local leadership and emergency services, and will continue to hold ongoing informational workshops concerning its autonomous operations.
Since commencing commercial operations in 2019, Gatik has achieved a 100% safety record across multiple operational sites in North America (including Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Ontario). Gatik focuses exclusively on fixed, repeatable delivery routes to maximize safety, using proprietary, commercial-grade autonomous technology that is purpose built for B2B short-haul logistics. By constraining the operational design domain, Gatik has been able to achieve the safe removal of the safety driver much more quickly compared to 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.
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% of all routes under 500 miles and routes under 100 miles growing by 37% in the past decade.