REUTERS: Silicon Valley self-driving startup Gatik and Isuzu North America Corp on Tuesday said they will work together to build autonomous delivery trucks that Gatik will use to serve its retailer customers.
Gatik, which works with Walmart Inc in Arkansas and Louisiana and Loblaw Companies Ltd in Canada to deliver goods to stores from warehouses using autonomous trucks with safety drivers, has seen a boom in business as the pandemic has boosted sales at grocery stores.
"What I can share is our revenue is in the millions. So this is not a free service that we offer," said co-founder and chief executive Gautam Narang. He said Gatik's business model for now is to be a delivery service provider for retailers using self-driving technology rather than selling the technology to automakers.
Self-driving truck companies, especially those supplying big rigs that transport goods from warehouse to warehouse and drive along highways, have been gaining a lot of traction with investors keen to jump on the emerging technology. Still, the technology is years away from removing the driver completely.
Narang said Gatik and Walmart plan to test out fully driverless delivery in Arkansas later this year. "We actually worked with the Arkansas State Highway Commission to get the approval to take the driver out," said Narang. He said approval for that came in December.
Gatik, which has raised nearly US$30 million so far, said its trucks are owned by a major fleet operator which it isn't yet disclosing. So far it has been using the Ford Transit chassis for its existing fleet of autonomous delivery trucks.
Ford Motor Co Executive Chairman Bill Ford's venture capital fund Fontinalis Partners is an early investor in Gatik, according to Narang.
The collaboration between Isuzu and Gatik is limited to the United States and Canada and Isuzu will provide engineering support to Gatik for retrofitting its Series N medium-duty trucks, said Shaun Skinner, who leads Isuzu's commercial truck division in those two countries.
Isuzu North America Corporation is a unit of Japan's Isuzu Motors Ltd.
(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Christopher Cushing)