Gatik, which makes autonomous delivery vehicles for the middle-mile, announced today that it has received $997,706 million CAD (~$788,511 USD) from Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) R&D Partnership Fun, along with $8 million CAD (~$6.32 million USD) in unspecified “industry contribution.” The new funding will go towards winterizing Gatik’s autonomous driving technology.
Gatik develops self-driving delivery trucks for the middle mile, which typically means between two points within a company’s network, e.g. between a warehouse and a store.
The Ontario government will help Gatik’s autonomous driving technology withstand inclement weather. Right now, a lot of self-driving pilots and tests happen in sunny climates such as Arizona, Texas and California. Bright, sunny weather makes it easier for self-driving vehicles to navigate because road conditions are dry and the surrounding environment is clearer for the vehicle’s systems to “see.”
But if self-driving technology is ever to reach mass market scale, it must be able to operate in all kinds of weather. Not only will autonomous vehicles need to “see” in rain and fog and snow, they will also have to safely drive on wet and icy roads. Another self-driving delivery startup that has “ruggedized” their vehicles for harsh conditions include Refraction, which operates out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Gatik already operates a small fleet of autonomous delivery trucks in Canada. Last November, Canadian grocery chain Loblaw started using a five Gatik trucks to run food between automated picking facilities and retail stores. Gatik, which is headquarted in Palo Alto, CA, has been expanding its Canadian presence. The company recently moved into a 12,000 sq. ft. research facility in Toronto and expects to double its workforce there over the coming year. As part of its funding arrangement, AVIN will help Gatik attract and retain engineering talent in Ontario.
Last month, the company debuted its first electric delivery vehicle, which has a range of 120 miles and takes only 1.5 hours to charge. The company will also be running two delivery routes for Walmart in Arkansas and Louisina. The Arkansas route will go completely driverless (i.e., no human backup) this year, and the Louisiana route will be the first to use Gatik’s electric trucks.
Operating only within the middle mile makes it easier for Gatik to bring its autonomous driving tech to market. By focusing on the middle mile, the delivery trucks only need to navigate between two fixed points. By avoiding consumer delivery (the so-called “last mile”), Gatik limits the number of variables its trucks will encounter on a given route.
This narrow, middle-mile approach combined with winterized driving capability could give Gatik a huge boost in getting to more markets quickly.