Walmart announced on Monday (Nov. 8) that the autonomous trucking company Gatik has been moving customer orders daily without a safety driver on a route in Bentonville, Arkansas, the first such middle-mile delivery anywhere in the world.
The companies say that the deliveries, which move orders from a Walmart dark store and a neighborhood market in the retail giant’s hometown, involve repeated runs several times a day, seven days a week on public roads, showcasing the advantages of driverless delivery: more speed and responsiveness, better asset utilization and safer roads.
“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,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile at Walmart U.S., said in a news release. “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.”
Gautam Narang, Gatik’s CEO and co-founder, called the news “a revolutionary breakthrough for the autonomous trucking industry,” noting that the trips were completed in a range of conditions on public roads, navigating intersections, traffic lights and merging on dense urban streets. The success of these efforts, Narang said, illustrates “the commercial and technical advantages of fully driverless operations on the middle mile.”
Last year, Walmart and Gatik received the Arkansas State Highway Commission’s first-ever approval to remove the safety driver from Gatik trucks after 18 months of successful operations. The companies said Gatik worked with state and local leaders and emergency services, and will continue to hold informational workshops on the project.
Walmart has also worked with Gatik on a project in Louisiana, delivering items on a 20-mile journey from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point.
As PYMNTS reported in September, Walmart is also working with Ford and Argo AI on a driverless delivery fleet in Miami, Austin and Washington D.C., allowing customers to make orders online and have them delivered door to door by the autonomous service.