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December 20, 2023
Self-driving trucking company Gatik has officially launched its autonomous delivery service with Kroger in Texas.
The multi-year collaboration between the California-based tech firm and the United States’ second-largest grocery chain was first announced earlier this year, and the companies have now confirmed it is successfully up and running.
Their announcement was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony at Kroger’s Customer Fulfillment Center (CFC) in Dallas attended by officials from the city, and also the state of Texas.
The partnership sees Gatik’s medium-duty autonomous box trucks transporting products from the CFC to a number of retail locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Over the past eight months, the Gatik vehicles have been making multiple runs a day, seven days a week, enabling Kroger to fulfill online orders and deliver produce more quickly. The routes are typically around the 20-mile mark.
Previously, this middle-mile service had been carried out by larger trucks driven by humans, which meant longer loading times and fewer daily trips.
“What has always been important to customers is that they get what they need on time,” said Ben Hamilton, Kroger vice president. “But what we have seen through this collaboration is that it is also really important to have good customer service.
“With Gatik’s autonomous box trucks, we are able to be quicker with our deliveries, and focus more on the customer service side of things, which ultimately leads to happier customers and repeat customers.”
According to both companies, the support of the state of Texas has been key in the successful delivery of the project. While California, for example, attempted to prevent driverless truck testing – ultimately unsuccessfully, as Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed proposed legislation – Texas has been keen to support the nascent tech as it aims to build a transportation ecosystem that encourages economic growth.
“Texas is at the center of Gatik’s commercial growth strategy, so we’re very pleased to see the tangible benefits of our autonomous trucking solution realized through our partnership with Kroger,” said Gautam Narang, Gatik CEO and co-founder.
“The support we’ve received from state and local officials throughout our journey in Texas has been phenomenal and we’re excited to continue safely scaling our industry-leading Freight-Only operations in the state.”
“Freight-Only” is how Gatik describes trucks without human operators on board, and the company says it is on track to deliver such services at scale over the course of 2024 and 2025. It has already demonstrated its capability in this area in tandem with Walmart in Arkansas.
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