Autonomous trucks will deliver goods to Dallas Sam's Club stores
Autonomous trucks developed by Gatik will soon be delivering paper plates and toilet tissue to Sam's Club stores throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Why it matters: It's a new frontier for self-driving truck technology, which has been primarily focused on long-haul semi-truck highway pilots.
- Gatik instead is targeting the so-called "middle mile" between distribution warehouses and stores or fulfillment centers.
Driving the news: Gatik today announced a multi-year partnership with Georgia-Pacific, the big paper and pulp company, and KBX, the transportation arm of Koch Industries, to automate part of the companies' delivery network in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
- Starting in July, the driverless trucks will deliver goods 24/7 on pre-defined, short-haul routes across a network of 34 Sam's Club stores.
- By replacing traditional tractor trailers with smaller, autonomous box trucks, Gatik will help Sam's Club and its suppliers replenish stores more quickly while reducing logistics costs, the companies said.
Context: It's a significant expansion for Gatik, which deployed its first driverless trucks last year to shuttle merchandise between a Walmart fulfillment center and a single store near the retailer's Bentonville headquarters.
- In Dallas, each of Gatik's trucks will drive about 300 miles a day on a complex network of urban, suburban and highway routes.
- A backup safety driver will be on board, but CEO Gautam Narang tells Axios the company's narrow focus will allow it to go completely driverless more quickly than other trucking companies.
- "Instead of trying to boil the ocean" to solve autonomy for every scenario, "we focus on repeatable routes, from distribution center to micro fulfillment center," he said. "This is how we envision growth over the long term."
Texas is attractive for autonomous trucking, he said, because of its favorable regulations, fair weather and huge number of logistics providers and retailers.
- Gatik plans to create more than 500 jobs in Texas by 2025, including in operational, technical and business roles.
- KBX's parent, Koch Industries, is a Gatik investor.