According to a new pilot program, automated short-haul delivery trucks from startup Gatik will be tested by logistics business Pitney Bowes at distribution hubs in the Dallas area, the companies said on Wednesday.
Pitney Bowes will begin integrating Gatik’s self-driving box trucks in 2023. Pitney Bowes offers logistic services to retailers including eBay and American Eagle. The trucks will haul packages between distribution facilities, or so-called “middle-mile” delivery, and will complement five currently operating routes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In addition to expanding Gatik’s presence in the U.S. short-haul delivery sector, the agreement gives the multinational logistics firm access to some of the first commercial autonomous delivery trucks currently on the market.
In order to automate shorter, business-to-business hauls with established, repetitive routes, Gatik was founded in Silicon Valley in 2017. In 2021, it began working in collaboration with Walmart and became the first delivery service in the commercial sector to adopt a fully driverless fleet.
While other autonomous driving systems, such as Tesla’s, have come under increased scrutiny, Gatik claims that by concentrating just on middle-mile routes, the company has managed to survive the challenging climate.
“By constraining the autonomy problem, we can get to the point where the driver comes out [of the safety driver role] faster than anyone else in the industry,” Gautam Narang, the CEO of Gatik, stated in an interview with CNBC. “We chose the safest possible routes and the easiest possible routes.”
The routes used by Gatik do not cross state lines, and they are designed with the assistance of regulators to stay clear of places like hospitals, schools, and unprotected left turns. Additionally, compared to many of its competitors’ trucks, the trucks employed are smaller.
Pitney Bowes routes will initially include a safety driver, but in a few months, the company hopes to have all autonomous trucks operating on those routes.
It might save Pitney Bowes up to 30% in costs, according to Gatik’s estimations for scale.
A wider implementation of Gatik’s automated delivery routes may follow, depending on the outcome of the pilot program. Pitney Bowes has started a national rollout of automation technologies in its warehouses.
As long as two completely autonomous vehicles are working each route, the business, which raised $85 billion in its Series B fundraising last year, claims it can reach profitability at a site-specific level.